Scott_Kinsey/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Priority Bird

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

Conservation status Common and widespread. Very wide wintering range and remote breeding range help to ensure survival.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Beaches, mudflats, jetties, rocky shores; in summer, tundra. Mostly coastal in migration and winter, favoring rocky shorelines, rock jetties, or beaches covered with seaweed or debris. May also feed on mudflats or on plowed fields near coast. Nests on open ground in arctic, including wet tundra and dry rocky ridges.
A chunky, short-legged sandpiper, wearing a bright harlequin pattern in summer, dark brown in winter. The Ruddy Turnstone nests on high arctic tundra of North America and Eurasia, and winters along the coastlines of six continents. In migration it is seen mainly along the coast, although numbers may stop over at favored points inland, especially along the Great Lakes.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Best known for habit of inserting bill under stones, shells, etc., and flipping them over to find food underneath. Several birds may work together to overturn a larger object. Often probes under seaweed or debris. Can be a nuisance in tern colonies at times, including on wintering grounds on Pacific islands, where it may puncture and eat the contents of many eggs.


Eggs

4, sometimes 2-3. Olive-green to olive-buff, blotched with dark brown. Incubation is by both sexes (but female does more), 22-24 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents care for young at first, but male takes greater role, and female usually departs before young are old enough to fly. Male leads young to food at first, but young feed themselves. Age at first flight 19-21 days, usually independent thereafter.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents care for young at first, but male takes greater role, and female usually departs before young are old enough to fly. Male leads young to food at first, but young feed themselves. Age at first flight 19-21 days, usually independent thereafter.

Diet

Variable, includes insects, crustaceans, mollusks. In breeding season mostly insects, also spiders, seeds, berries, moss. At other seasons eats crustaceans (including barnacles, crabs, amphipods), mollusks, worms, sea urchins, small fish. Will eat carrion and will eat food scraps thrown out in garbage dumps. Sometimes eats eggs of other birds.


Nesting

In courtship, male pursues female, in the air and on the ground. Male may approach female in hunched posture, raising and lowering tail. Nest site is on ground, either in the open or concealed among rocks or under plants. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression with slight lining of leaves.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Usually scarce inland in migration. Winters on coasts from United States to South America, southern Africa, Australia. Birds from western Alaska winter from west coast of North America to Australia and New Zealand, some making long overwater flights from Alaska to Hawaii and then on to southwest. Birds from northern Canada winter on coasts from United States to southern South America. Those from northeasternmost Canadian islands (and Greenland) winter in western Europe.

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Migration

Usually scarce inland in migration. Winters on coasts from United States to South America, southern Africa, Australia. Birds from western Alaska winter from west coast of North America to Australia and New Zealand, some making long overwater flights from Alaska to Hawaii and then on to southwest. Birds from northern Canada winter on coasts from United States to southern South America. Those from northeasternmost Canadian islands (and Greenland) winter in western Europe.

Songs and Calls
A metallic but musical netticut or kek-kek.