The conservation status of the American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus palliatus) along the Chesapeake Bay, coastal bays, and barrier island shorelines of Maryland and Virginia has been investigated in detail in recent years. The region supports approximately 700 breeding pairs with more than 80% occurring on the east coast of the Delmarva Peninsula and less than 20% occurring along the shorelines of the Chesapeake Bay. The number of breeding pairs in Maryland appears to have been stable or to have increased slightly during the past 20 years. The overall trend of the breeding population in Virginia is less clear, but recent evidence suggests that numbers on the barrier islands are increasing after more than two decades of a declining trend. The coastal bays and barrier islands typically support between 1,500 and 2,000 wintering birds with most occurring on the east coast of the Virginia portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. The shorelines of both states together play an important role in supporting core breeding and wintering populations of the American Oystercatcher in the eastern United States. Throughout the region, oystercatchers are facing threats common to all coastal waterbird and shorebird species such as predation and overwash events. The threat of habitat loss to development, however, is not as alarming as in other areas of the species’s breeding range due to a significant amount of habitat being in protective conservation ownership or being unfit for development and recreation purposes. Habitat loss attributed to sea level rise, barrier island dynamics, and the indirect effects of development, such as pollution and contaminants, may play more important roles in the stability of breeding and wintering habitat for the American Oystercatcher in Maryland and Virginia.
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Vol. 30 • No. sp1