• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Black Turnstone


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Black Turnstone is one of the defining species for the rocky, wave-battered Pacific Coast. It blends in well with the dark rocks, but a careful winter observer will find it from Alaska through Baja California. It is rarely found far from the vicinity of spraying waves.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
8.7–9.8 in
22–25 cm
3.5–6 oz
100–170 g
Other Names
  • Tournepierre noir (French)
  • Vuelvepiedras negro (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • As their name suggests, turnstones often forage by turning over stones and other objects.
  • On the breeding grounds, the Black Turnstone is extremely aggressive to avian predators, flying more than 100 m from its territory to pursue jaegers and gulls.
  • The oldest recorded Black Turnstone was a female and was at least 8 years old when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Alaska.



  • Breeds in sparsely vegetated areas next to coastal meadows.
  • In winter, found along high-energy rocky shorelines, on beaches near rocky coasts, and on jetties and piers.



Aquatic invertebrates: crustaceans, barnacles, and limpets.


Nesting Facts
Egg Description
Oval to mildly pointed, pale olive with brown spots and blotches.
Condition at Hatching
Active and covered with down.
Nest Description

Scrape or depression in ground or vegetation. Lined with vegetation.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Uses aerial displays to attract a mate.Uses oddly-shaped bill to flip and turn stones, algae, sticks, and other items to find food underneath. Probes in cracks. Pecks at food on surface of rocks.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

This species is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.


  • Handel, C. M., and R. E. Gill. 2001. Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala). In The Birds of North America, No. 585 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
  • USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity records of North American Birds.

Range Map Help

Black Turnstone Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.