Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)

Black Turnstone

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Arenaria melanocephala | [UK] Black Turnstone | [FR] Tournepierre noir | [DE] Schwarzkopf-Steinwalzer | [ES] Vuelvepiedras Oscuro | [NL] Zwarte Steenloper


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Aphriza melanocephala
Arenaria melanocephala NA nw w NA coast

Physical charateristics

A squat, blackish shorebird with a blackish chest and white belly. In spring, a round white spot before the eye, and white speckling. Flight pattern similar to Ruddy Turnstone’s. Legs dark.

Listen to the sound of Black Turnstone

[audio: Turnstone.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 50 cm wingspan max.: 55 cm
size min.: 22 cm size max.: 25 cm
incubation min.: 21 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 1 days fledging max.: 1 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : Northwest


Strictly coastal. Rocky shores, breakwaters, islets; nests on coastal tundra. During mig
ration and in winter, typically found in rocky sites along coast, such as rocky shoreline, jetties, breakwaters; also on mudflats and sand beaches at times. Breeds in Alaska on wet tundra near estuaries or lagoons, very close to coast.


Adults often return to exact same sites and nest with same mate each year. Male displays with circular flight over territory.
Nest: Site is on ground, usually close to water among grasses or sedges, either in the open or hidden by tall vegetation. Nest (probably built by both parents) is shallow depression, lined with grasses.
Eggs: 4, sometimes 3. Yellowish green to olive, blotched with dark brown. Incubation is by both sexes, usually 22-24 days.
Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young at first, but female usually leaves after about 2 weeks, leaving male to care for them; young find all their own food. Young can make short flights after about 23 days, can fly well at a
bout 28-30 days.

Feeding habits

Includes barnacles, mollusks, insects. On breeding grounds, feeds on insects, also some seeds and berries. On coast, barnacles and limpets are among main foods. Also eats other crustaceans and mollusks, marine worms.

Behavior: On coast, forages mostly by walki
ng slowly on rocks. Feeding on acorn barnacle, may insert bill in shell opening and pry it open, or hammer on shell to break it. Limpets and other mollusks are pried from rocks with pointed bill. On beaches, may turn over rocks, shells, or seaweed, seekin
g food underneath.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Black Turnstone status Least Concern


Breeds in Alaska. Winters along coast to western Mexico. Migration:
Apparently follows the coastline closely in spring migration. In fall, some birds may take a shortcut across the Gulf of Alaska, flying southeast across the water from western Alaska rather than taking the long way along the coast.

Distribution map

Black Turnstone distribution range map

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