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Species Guide
A photo of a Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

The Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, is a small, robust wading bird with a distinctive harlequin-like pattern of black and white. It exhibits sexual dimorphism, with females being slightly duller and browner on the head than males. The species is characterized by its bright orange legs and dark, upturned bill, which it adeptly uses to forage for food.

Identification Tips

Adults in breeding plumage are adorned with reddish-brown upper parts and black markings, a mainly white head with black streaks, and a distinct black pattern on the face. The breast is predominantly black with a white patch on the sides, while the rest of the underparts are white. In flight, the white wingbar, lower back, rump, and tail with dark bands are conspicuous. Non-breeding adults and juveniles are duller, with the latter having a pale brown head and a scaly appearance due to pale fringes on the upperpart feathers.


The Ruddy Turnstone can adapt to a variety of habitats. During the breeding season, it favors open tundra near water, while outside of breeding, it frequents rocky or stony shores, often utilizing man-made structures like jetties. Occasionally, it may be found on grassy areas near the coast or inland wetlands.


This cosmopolitan bird breeds in the northern reaches of Eurasia and North America, migrating to winter on coastlines across the globe. The subspecies A. i. morinella is found in northern Alaska and Arctic Canada, while A. i. interpres is present from western Alaska to northern Russia.


Ruddy Turnstones are known for their foraging technique of flipping over stones and debris to uncover prey. They are social birds, often foraging in flocks, and exhibit a variety of feeding behaviors, from routing through seaweed to hammer-probing to crack open shells.

Song & Calls

The species emits a staccato, rattling call and a chattering alarm-call, particularly during the breeding season.


Monogamous by nature, pairs may stay together for multiple seasons. Nests are shallow scrapes, sometimes lined with leaves, and located amongst vegetation or on bare ground. Clutches typically consist of four eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female. Chicks are precocial and fledge after about three weeks.

Similar Species

The Ruddy Turnstone can be confused with the Black Turnstone, Arenaria melanocephala, but the latter has darker plumage and a more limited range.

Diet and Feeding

The diet is diverse, ranging from carrion and eggs to plant material, but invertebrates like insects, crustaceans, and molluscs form the bulk of its diet. The bird's feeding strategy may vary by individual preference, sex, and social status.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Ruddy Turnstone as Least Concern. While the population appears stable, there are threats during migration and winter, and numbers may have declined since the 1970s. However, their extensive breeding and wintering ranges should help maintain their common status.

Ruddy Turnstone Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Ruddy Turnstone Fun Facts

Did you know?
Ruddy Turnstones are named after their habit to turn stones over in search of food.

Ruddy Turnstones on Birda


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