Both sexes of this wading bird are similar, having predominantly black plumage with a white underbelly. In flight you also see a white bar along the upper wing. It has a very distinctive red beak, red around eyelids and red legs; with a loud piping alarm call on the ground and in flight. The nest is usually a depression in stony ground.
Both adults take turns to incubate the two or three eggs, which are slightly smaller than a domestic hen’s and heavily speckled. When the oystercatcher chicks hatch they are always fed by the adults, their main food at this time is earthworms, and because the chicks do not feed themselves, usually only two chicks survive to grow to adult size.