The barrier beach neighborhood in eastern Queens is known as the Rockaways and the far eastern part is known as the Far Rockaways. Though the names might not be very original they are very nice to visit on a sunny June day, especially when you place your visit just to the east of the large Least Tern colony which also features breeding Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers. Though in years past both Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers bred in this area the Least Terns are, so far as I understand it, a new arrival, having moved several miles down the coast from their previous colony in Breezy Point. I assume that this change of venue has to do with the damage that Hurricane Sandy wrought but, interestingly, the large Common Tern and American Skimmer colonies remain in place at Breezy Point.

Piping Plover

Piping Plover in its proper place

Anyway, our little family of Daisy, Desi and I, joined by Daisy’s sister Stephanie, enjoyed an afternoon at the beach on Sunday. What we didn’t know when we placed our beach blanket down on an unassuming stretch of sand was that we were at pretty much the line that separated the feeding territories of two pairs of American Oystercatchers. Or, at least, we were at about the spot that one of the pairs of oystercatchers thought the line should be while the other pair seemed to think that another fifty meters or so of beach, as well as the next jetty, should be their exclusive feeding territory. It made for an entertaining time between eaten sand-laden sandwiches and keeping Desi from walking on rusty-nail-covered boards and the occasional other bit of debris left over from Sandy.

Oystercatcher War!

American Oystercatchers in flight

A pair of American Oystercatchers chase a solo bird that dared cross into what they felt was their territory. This went on for quite some time.

American Oystercatcher landing

This bird gave up the chase but when it came back around again it got right back into it.

American Oystercatcher

Eventually, each pair landed on opposite sides of the jetty and and took a break from fighting to feed. (Click on that shot above to make it bigger.)

American Oystercatcher feeding

All that flying and yelling makes an oystercatcher hungry!

American Oystercatcher victors

Eventually, though, the chasing started again and these two were left the sole possessors of the jetty. They celebrated by yelling at their retreating opponents.

Oystercatcher wars! A good time was had by all. Well, except for the losers.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.