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Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: SCOLOPACIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone's orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia). They use their stout, slightly upturned bill to flip debris on the beach to uncover insects and small crustaceans.

Calls

  • Calls
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Ruddy Turnstones are noisy and vocal shorebirds, and the male calls more frequently than the female. The most frequent call is a staccato chuckle or rattle which they give year-round in feeding groups, on the breeding grounds, and in flight. Alarm calls are sharp, metallic notes repeated irregularly either from the ground or in flight. The male also gives a longer chattering alarm call.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

To find a Ruddy Turnstone, hit the beach; almost any time of the year will do, but they are more numerous in the spring and fall. Ruddy Turnstones also show up at inland marshes and lakeshores, but they are more common on the coast. They don’t wade in deeper waters, so be on the lookout for them at the water’s edge, where the high tide deposits shells, rocks, seaweed, and other debris. At higher tides when there’s less exposed shoreline, look for them in rocky outcrops along the shore. Most often you can get good looks at turnstones with binoculars but as with many shorebirds, having a spotting scope will help you get better looks without disturbing them.

Get Involved

Help clean up a beach near you on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Learn more at Ocean Conservancy.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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