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Black Turnstone

Silhouette ShorebirdsShorebirds
Black TurnstoneArenaria melanocephala
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Scolopacidae

Basic Description

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
image of range map for Black TurnstoneRange map provided by Birds of the WorldExplore Maps

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.

Other Names

  • Vuelvepiedras Oscuro (Spanish)
  • Tournepierre noir (French)
  • Cool Facts

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