Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres
Ruddy turnstone

The ruddy turnstone is a dramatically colored shorebird with short orange legs, variegated russet color pattern on its back, and black and white head, throat, neck and breast. This stocky shorebird is medium in size and distinguishable in flight by their white back, rump, upper tail coverts, wing bar and patch on the inner wing.

Migration southward starts in August with adults departing before juveniles and is likely controlled by day length and accumulation of fat reserves.

They eat a variety of items throughout the year using their ingenuity. During the winter, they get their insect and crustacean food from shorelines and fields, often turning over rocks, shells and marine debris to find the food beneath – hence their common name of turnstone. They use their bills as shovels to dig for crabs, clams, and mussels. They will often eat carrion and eggs of seabirds like curlews. However, during the breeding season they eat mostly flies!

They are territorial birds like most shorebirds. Males typically will defend the area in which they will mate with a female and brood their young. The courtship rituals between a male and a female include ground and aerial displays. These birds are monogamous and remain with the same mate for the entire breeding season. They will make a depression in the ground to form a nest; nearby vegetation is used to line the nest cup. They lay 3 to 4 olive green eggs that are incubated by both parents for 21-24 days. When all are hatched, the entire family moves to areas with food resources. The females are the first to leave and the males take care of the young until they fledge three weeks later.

Facts About Ruddy Turnstone

Insects, crabs, clams, mussels, and eggs of other seabirds
Life Span
9 years
Length: 21-26 cm (8-10 in); wingspan: 50-57 cm (19-22 in)