Oystercatchers breed along coasts in northern Europe from Iceland, Fenno-Scandia and northern Russia, south to northwest France and, locally, in the Mediterranean. From the Black Sea eastward into western Siberia and central Asia they are also found far inland along river systems as well as along the Pacific coasts of Asia south to northeast China. They are mostly migratory, wintering along the coasts of western Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and south and east China.
    In the 19th century the British population was almost entirely coastal, but from 1900 onwards began to spread inland during the breeding season, first along the major rivers in Scotland and northern England and then subsequently in north Wales and the northern part of East Anglia and eventually in southern England. The British population moves to the coast but remains mostly within Great Britain during the winter, when it is joined by migrants from Iceland, the Faroes and Fenno-Scandia.
    In Wiltshire there were a few scattered records during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. From 1950 onwards records became more frequent and have been annual since 1981, mostly in spring or early autumn though they have been recorded in every month. A first, unsuccessful, breeding attempt was noted at the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) in 1998; it was not until 2002 that the first successful breeding was recorded, also at the CWP. Since then, breeding has been confirmed in four more years, with evidence of attempted breeding in three other years - all records at the CWP.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.