Ruddy turnstone

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Arenaria interpres

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    molluscs, crustaceans, insects and bird eggs

  • Size

    7 to 9 inches (18 to 23 cm)

  • Relatives

    sandpipers, family Scolopacidae

  • Habitat

    Rocky Shores

  • Range

    coastal tundra from northwestern Canada to southern Greenland for breeding in summer. Oregon and Connecticut south to South America in winter.

Natural History

You can tell this shorebird by its plump body, black bib, wedged-shaped bill and short orange-red legs. But in breeding season it takes on a different look, with black, white and reddish-brown markings, a white belly and a distinctive black and white head.


Oil spills threaten migratory shorebirds like ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, dunlins and western sandpipers, because these birds gather in huge groups at five key feeding grounds where food is superabundant. These feeding grounds support five million shorebirds each year. An oil spill at one of these sites could be devastating to their populations. Resort development and beach erosion also threaten shorebirds.

Cool Facts

The ruddy turnstone uses its wedge-shaped bill to open barnacles, dig holes and flip aside stones, shells and seaweed in pursuit of small invertebrates and insects. 

Ruddy turnstones can fly at speeds up to 40 mph.

When food is scarce, ruddy turnstones defend their temporary feeding territories against all intruders.

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