Black TurnstoneArenaria melanocephala
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Scolopacidae
A dapper shorebird the color of wet rocks and surf spray, the Black Turnstone neatly matches its Pacific Coast wintering habitat. Look for them on rocky coasts or amid piles of kelp at the high-tide line, where they flip over rocks, shells, and seaweed to grab flies and fish eggs or hammer open shellfish. Like their gaudier relative the Ruddy Turnstone, these birds flash an eye-catching pattern when they burst into flight. On Alaskan breeding grounds, pairs nest close together and perform fancy flight displays with buzzy calls.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Black Turnstones are fairly easy to find from about August to April on rocky Pacific shores. At high tide, look for them roosting on cliffs or rock jetties, often among Surfbirds, Sanderlings, Rock Sandpipers, and Wandering Tattlers. As the tide falls, Black Turnstones forage on exposed rocks and beach wrack. They are well camouflaged, but they are active and especially visible (and audible) in flight so patient scanning will generally turn them up.
- Vuelvepiedras Oscuro (Spanish)
- Tournepierre noir (French)
- Cool Facts
- As their name suggests, turnstones often forage by using their short, chisel-like bill to turn over stones and other objects.
- To increase leverage when overturning heavy objects like kelp or driftwood, Black Turnstones crouch down on their lower legs to thrust the object upward with more force. They sometimes use the entire body to “snowplow” headlong into a heavy mass of kelp, exposing brine flies, fish eggs, and other food.
- On the breeding grounds, Black Turnstones are extremely aggressive, flying more than 100 yards from their territories to pursue possible predators such as jaegers and gulls.
- The oldest recorded Black Turnstone was a female and was at least 8 years old when she was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Alaska.