Photo: Scott_Kinsey/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Priority Bird

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

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.
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
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • juvenile
  • breeding adults
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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

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

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.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A metallic but musical netticut or kek-kek.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Sandpipers Sandpiper-like Birds

Ruddy Turnstone

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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