John Gould described the sooty oystercatcher in 1845. Its species name is the Latin adjective fuliginosus, "sooty". Two subspecies are recognised, the nominate from the coastline of southern Australia and subspecies ophthalmicus from northern Australia. The southern subspecies is larger and heavier than the northern. The northern one, with a more yellowish eye ring, is found from the Kimberleys across the top of the country to Mackay in central Queensland. There is considerable overlap, as the southern subspecies has been found up to Cape York. Subspecies ophthalmicus has been thought distinctive enough to warrant species status and needs further investigation. Black redbill is a local name.
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