Egg Tooth on Oystercatcher Chicks

Wednesday, June 17, 2020,

Okay, so here’s some major coolness. Well, at the very least, it’s pretty cool to me. I will attempt to express some of my awe and wonder in these few paragraphs. These photographs capture two baby Oystercatcher chicks on their very first day. These chicks are literally only a few hours old. Each one still has its egg tooth. The egg tooth is that small white nubbin near the end of their upper bills.

The beak and claws of most bird chicks growing inside of an egg are often undeveloped and therefore not strong enough to allow the chick to break out of the egg when it is ready to meet the world. Nature has provided a solution to this dilemma. A hard, sharp protrusion develops near the tip of the upper beak of the embryonic chick. This is the “egg tooth” and it is used by the emerging chick to break free of its eggshell. Many reptiles and amphibians use a similar strategy.

Having been an amateur naturalist since the age of five, I have been aware of the concept of an egg tooth for decades. These photos mark the very first time I have ever seen, let alone photographed, an actual egg tooth. How cool is that? This remarkable structure, no longer needed, will drop off after a few days.  JK


First Day

Tuesday, June 9, 2020,

These are two only hours old Oystercatcher chicks. The one on the left appears to be contemplating a return to its shell. I can’t claim to blame it. I’ve been reading the news too. As an aside, these are the hatchlings from the eggs and nest I posted a few days ago. With any luck, I may be able to document their future progress. So far, so good.  JK

Oystercatcher Nest

Monday, June 3, 2020,

This is an Oystercatcher nest and those are two Oystercatcher eggs. They are fairly easy to spot here but this is a zoomed in photo and the eggs are in the center of image. If you were to try to spot these eggs on a beach, you would need some very sharp eyes. I knew where this nest was, having spotted it the previous day, but it still took me almost ten minutes to find it again when I returned. As you can see, Oystercatchers do not build intricate nests. Like most other shorebirds, they merely make a shallow scrape in the sand.

This is Mama Oystercatcher who has come to sit on her eggs. She spends most of her time on or near the nest but she does leave it occasionally. While I was taking this series of photos, she only left the nest twice. Once to dance with her mate, and another time to scold a Tern that was perched on a nearby pole. That’s how I managed to get the photo of the uncovered eggs in the first pic. After giving me the once over – I was seated some distance away – she settled back down to incubate her eggs. JK