Ruddy TurnstoneArenaria interpres

  • Sandy Beach & Dunes
  • Sandy shores
  • Fauna
  • Native


The ruddy turnstone - Arenaria interpres is a migratory bird that breeds in northern parts of Eurasia and North America flying south to spend the winter on coastlines worldwide. In much of its range, it is the only species of turnstone. The species measure between 21 and 26 centimeters and has a wingspan of 50 to 57 centimeters. Rather robust in appearance, the bird has short legs and distinctive plumage that has a harlequin-like pattern of black and white. Its plumage on its upper parts is reddish- brown during the breeding season that is particularly noticeable during flight. Its breast is mainly dark or black and underparts white. Non-breeding adults display a much duller plumage with upper parts being dark grey, brown and black and grey-brown head. [1]


[1] Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 August 2018).

Habitat and ecology

The ruddy turnstone is a fully migratory species that breeds from May to early-August mostly in solitary pairs along coasts or on islands.  Migration occurs in large flocks. During winter they remain gregarious and sociable particularly during feeding or roosting activities. They can sometimes be seen in flocks from 10 to 100 individuals. Arenaria interpres prefers stony coastal plains, marshy slopes and flats in lowlands and tundra, where it may feed on insects, spiders as well as some vegetable matter. They may occur inland or along lake shores during migration but is otherwise restricted to coastal areas outside the breeding season. The bird prefers short grass salt marshes, rocky, shingly, stony shores and breakwaters. They also thrive on sandy beaches with washed up seaweed, sheltered inlets, estuaries, mangrove swamps, exposed reefs and mudflats. During the non-breeding season, they may feed on insects, crustaceans, molluscs, annelids, echinoderms, small fish, carrion, discarded human food and birds’ eggs.


Conservation and management

Due to its wide range and population numbers, the species is classified as ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List. [1]Nevertheless, its population has been declining in some areas of its range where it suffers from predation from the American mink Neovison vison and is vulnerable to outbreaks of the avian influenza. Habitat fragmentation may also contribute to local declines.


[1] BirdLife International. 2016.  Arenaria interpres. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693336A86589171. Downloaded on 17 August 2018.


Did you know?

The ruddy turnstone gets its common name from its ability to flip over objects such as stones, shells and seaweed, where it may peck or chase its prey. It does so with quick jerking movements and individuals may work together to overturn larger objects. It has been observed to roll up mats of seaweed by moving swiftly forwards pushing bill and forehead below the vegetation.