Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
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In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)


black oystercatcher
(Artwork - 111)
Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)

Anyone who is alert to the natural world and enjoys seeing wildlife, and has visited rocky Pacific coast shoreline from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska south to the coast of Baja California, Mexico, has almost certainly seen this distinctive shorebird, about 500 to 700 grams in weight (about a pound to a pound and a half). They are chunky, solid and methodical in their motions and behavior. Their plumage is a funereal drab black with a brownish wash to the back and wing coverts, and a bit of a blue or blue-purplish wash, variably, to the head, neck and upper breast, but under most lighting conditions they look dull black.

The unfeathered parts (which birders and ornithologists call the “soft parts”) are quite vivid, the feet usually a pearlescent pink color, the beak bright red, as is the narrow bare ring around the eye. The pupil is yellow. In many individuals there is a dark blackish-brown spot of pigment on the iris, just in front of the pupil (at what would be the 4 o’clock position on a dial), which, from a distance, can give the pupil a somewhat “slit-like” or oval look. I don’t know what the function is, and have seen that same bit of pigment in the iris of totally unrelated birds, like toucans. Most artists don’t show it, but I’ve seen it more often than not in birds I’ve observed, so included it. In other parts of the world there are other oystercatcher species that are nearly the same color, and others with varying amounts of white, and some that are black, white and dark brown.

The specimen I used for reference (along with dozens of my own sketches, notes and photographs and those of others) was collected May 25, 1936, at Disenchantment Bay, Osier Island, Alaska by T.M. Shortt (1910 – 1986) who I believe was Canada’s finest bird artist and illustrator, and was a mentor to me when I was young. He painted the bird, showing no pigment in front of the pupil, but since most, or at least many, seem to have it, I included it, in my painting.

It’s estimated to have a population size of around 10,000 birds and since it stays very close to the tide lines, it is very vulnerable to oil spills, as well as displacement by recreational and other beach use in the southern part of its range. In spite of its name, it feeds on a wide range of tide-pool marine life including small mussels, limpets and chitons, the soft bodies of live barnacles, crab, isopods and other invertebrates. They lay usually two or three hard-shelled eggs. The young stay close to their parents until the following year. Birds in the northern part of the range may migrate, with the young of that year following with them. The adults pairs may stay together for many years, patrolling the stretch of shoreline that is their territory each nesting season.

The painting, approximately life-size, is about 16 X 20 inches and is in acrylics on hardboard (acid-free Masonite).

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
See his website: http://barrykentmackay.ca/

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