South Island pied oystercatcher (SIPO)

Status: Declining


Seen throughout New Zealand. They usually breed August-January inland in the South Island, mainly east of the Southern Alps on riverbeds and farmland, in sand scrapes on farmland or gravel banks in braided rivers. They are also known to breed on high country grasslands and in coastal areas adjacent to estuaries and lagoons where they are also found during the non-breeding season (distribution map).


One of two species of oystercatcher in New Zealand, the endemic South Island pied oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi) is also known as the New Zealand pied oystercatcher, Finsch’s oystercatcher, tōrea, torea (Māori), and SIPO. In coastal areas they are commonly seen feeding in bivalves (hence their name), small crustaceans, cnidarians (jellyfish) and fish. Further inland they have been seen feeding on worms and small beetles.

Oystercatchers never eat oysters!
Oystercatchers never eat oysters!

Measuring 46cm long and weighing between 550gm, the SIPO is a large, solidly built wading bird with a black back, head, and wings, with a clear delineation marking the white breast, a long bright orange bill, orange eyes, and stocky pink legs. The sexes are similar. Juveniles have a brownish tinge to their plumage, dusky red bill and dull pink legs.

Their eggs are blotched dark and pale brown. See Taera for an image of their simple nest and eggs and to hear their call.

Defensive display
Defensive display

More information

Conservation efforts

Conservation work to protect other braided rivers birds has a collateral benefit.