We documented the diet of the Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) on Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada, (2004–2010) with prey remains from 99 territories in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. The ranking of its four main prey types did not vary annually. Numerically, the prey comprised 50–75% limpets, 14–34% mussels, 8–18% chitons, 1–2% Northern Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), and <1% other species. In 2009, we estimated prey availability and prey preference by Ivlev's electivity index. Northern Abalone, limpets, and chitons were highly preferred; mussels, turban snails, and barnacles were taken in proportion to their occurrence or avoided. Black Oystercatchers preferred abalone of 50 mm, smaller than the mean size available, in contrast to the selection of larger-than-average prey, typical for other prey species. In 2010, 52% of nesting territories sampled contained remains of Northern Abalone, despite that species' small contribution to the diet. The Northern Abalone has never been reported as prey of the Black Oystercatcher despite its high vulnerability to predation at low tides. We speculate that the recent inclusion of the Northern Abalone in the Black Oystercatcher diet on Haida Gwaii may indicate a greater abundance of Northern Abalone than in other regions of its distribution. The frequency of the oystercatcher's feeding on abalone was unexpected because under Canada's Species at Risk Act, the Northern Abalone was listed as “endangered” in 2010, after the population continued to decline after legal protection from harvest in 1990.
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Vol. 115 • No. 4