"Lemon eyes and carrot beak." Oysters on the coast
The Ordinance nº 5356/04 of the Municipality of Río Gallegos created the Urban Coastal Reserve of the city that, together with the Provincial Reserve for Shorebirds with which it is adjoining, protect the ecosystem of the Gallegos River estuary.
These protected sites conserve a representative sample of marshes and muddy intertidal flats. In addition, one of its important functions as a natural system is a place with high richness in food sources that constitutes a place of rest and feeding for thousands of shorebirds during their seasonal movements, as well as a final destination for other species. On the other hand, the protection of this environment, assures the inhabitants of the area one of the many services that nature offers us free of charge, the transition and natural regulation between the aquatic and terrestrial environments, by acting as a buffer zone for the tides .
Among the birds that we can observe in the estuary is the Southern Oystercatcher (Haematopus leucopodus), a very abundant species and a Patagonian migratory. It is the only one of the three species of oystercatchers that inhabit our coasts that nest away from these, between September and November, it nests on the shores of lagoons or flooded areas , in the steppe and up to the mountain range
The Austral measures 35 centimeters and is easily recognizable by its long, intense red beak, which is almost twice the size of the head. According to the children who have sighted and known it in our estuary, this Oystercatcher has "lemon eyes and carrot beak", a practical way to recognize it. For its part, the head, back and chest are a deep black, which contrasts with the white belly. The periphery of the eye is yellow, characteristic that differentiates it from the Common Oystercatcher, in which it is reddish. Its legs are robust and its fingers are joined by a basement membrane that allows it to move with agility on soft substrates.
This species is gregarious, forms pairs or small groups during the reproductive period and is seen in large flocks, of several hundred individuals, during the rest of the year. Walk slowly and take small jumps, but if it is disturbed it can run quickly. His voice, which he usually emits in flight, is a strong, very particular sound, which led to another common name used by the field people "fil-fil". Sometimes it can be observed resting in large concentrations, aligned along the coast.
During the nesting, it uses small hollows of the ground, where it deposits from 2 to 3 olive-green eggs with pints and darker spots. In the vicinity of the estuary nest near lagoons and ponds.