The American oystercatcher has been identified locally as a focal species of management concern in the refuge’s comprehensive conservation plan (CCP), regionally along the mid-Atlantic coastal plain, and nationally in the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan, due to increasing threats in breeding and wintering grounds. Loss and degradation of habitats (sandy beaches, tidal mudflats and salt marshes) along the east coast, are directly attributed to human development and beach recreation. These two threats pose the greatest dangers to oystercatcher populations. High predator populations also significantly reduce oystercatcher nesting success. Since oystercatchers share habitat with other coastal specialist birds, conservation efforts on their behalf also benefit other declining beach-dependent species like piping plovers, red knots, sanderlings, whimbrels, black skimmers, least terns, horseshoe crabs and the beach-dune tiger beetle.
Oystercatchers can be seen year-round on the refuge especially at Fowler Beach Road along the refuge’s barrier island beach habitats. They begin arriving in mid-March when they start forming pair-bonds that last the length of the breeding season from April through early August. The wintering range extends southward along the Atlantic coast from central New Jersey down to Mexico. Many oystercatchers also migrate through late fall resting and feeding in refuge habitats and some stay through until early winter.