Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Ruddy Turnstone

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Arenaria interpres | [UK] Ruddy Turnstone | [FR] Tournepierre a collier | [DE] Steinwalzer | [ES] Vuelvepiedras Comun | [NL] Steenloper


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Arenaria interpres NA, EU n Worldwide
Arenaria interpres interpres ne Canada, Greenland, n Europe to ne Siberia and w Alaska w and s Europe, Africa, s and e Asia, Auustralasia, Pacific islands, w USA and w Mexico
Arenaria interpres morinella ne Alaska, n Canada s USA to South America

Physical charateristics

The Ruddy Turnstone is a compact shorebird with distinctive plumages and bright orange legs. It has a short, wedge-shaped bill that it uses in its unique foraging style. The male in breeding plumage has a rufous back, striped with black and white. The belly is white, and the head is boldly patterned in black and white. A bold, black ‘U’ in front of the wing is a prominent feature on the male in breeding plumage, and is visible, although less so, in all other plumages. In flight, the Ruddy Turnstone shows white at the base of the tail, on the wings, and on the back. Females and males in non-breeding plumage are duller than breeding males, their backs mottled gray-brown rather than rufous.
Ruddy Turnstones flock in small groups, larger in spring than fall, and often occur with Dunlins and Red Knots in the spring. Active foragers, turnstones are best known for their habit of turning over objects and eating the food underneath. They are quite strong and have been known to turn over rocks as big as their own heads. They also flip over seaweed, small sticks, and other objects in their search for food. When moving from place to place locally, Ruddy Turnstone flocks fly in tight groups. During migration, they fly in loose lines.

Listen to the sound of Ruddy Turnstone

[audio: Turnstone.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 52 cm wingspan max.: 55 cm
size min.: 21 cm size max.: 25 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 19 days fledging max.: 24 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America, Eurasia : North


Ruddy Turnstones breed in the Arctic tundra. During migration and winter, they inhabit coastal areas with sandy or rocky shores, although they are most typically found on mudflats, especially those with rocks. In migration, they can be found inland in plowed fields.


Nests are located on the open ground in wet tundra areas or dry rocky ridges. They are sometimes well concealed among rocks or under shrubs. The female builds the nest, a shallow depression with a sparse lining of leaves. Both parents incubate the four eggs for 22 to 24 days. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching and follow the male to food. They feed themselves, but both parents help protect and tend the young. The female usually departs first, leaving the male to watch over the young until they can fly, typically at 19 to 21 days.

Feeding habits

Ruddy Turnstones are generalists. They eat anything they can find under rocks and seaweed, as well as carrion and often the eggs of small, colonial terns.


This species has an extremely 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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.
Ruddy Turnstone status Least Concern


Migratory. Breeding range divisible into 5 populations: (1) birds of Axel Heiberg I; Elsmere I and Greenland move to W Europe, mainly from Irish and North Seas to Iberia, with vagrants S to Mauritania; direct trans-Atlantic crossing or stopover in Iceland or SW Norway; (2) Fenno-Skandian and W Russian birds move along coast lines of Baltic and W Europe (May and mid-Jul to mid-Sept) to Morocco and W Africa; (3) birds breeding from White Sea to C Siberia probably move through Kazakhstan lakes and Caspian and Black Seas to winter in E Mediterranean Red Sea, Persian Gulf, coasts of Indian Ocean and S Africa; on southward migration locally frequent inland in Africa; (4) birds from E Siberia and W Alaska, wintering in SE Asia, Australia, W Pacific and locally on W coast of Mexico and California; possibly two routes to Australia, first with movement to E Australia and New Zealand across Pacific, returning N via E coast of Asia, and second with movement to and from W Australia along E Asian coasts; arrives in Australia Aug-Nov and departs Mar-Jun; (5) race morinella moves to Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Central and South America, staging in large numbers in Delaware Bay, and with highest numbers wintering in N South America. Most immature birds spend summer S of breeding grounds. High fidelity to wintering sites. Juveniles migrate S c. 1 month later than adults. i.e. mid-Aug to early Sept. Migrates in flocks of ten’s of birds.

Distribution map

Ruddy Turnstone distribution range map

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