Bird’s ID – Ruddy Turnstone
The Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. The scientific name is from Latin. The genus name arenaria derives from arenarius, “inhabiting sand, from arena, “sand”. It is now classified in the sandpiper family Scolopacidae but was formerly sometimes placed in the plover family Charadriidae. It is a highly migratory bird, breeding in northern parts of Eurasia and North America and flying south to winter on coastlines almost worldwide. It is the only species of turnstone in much of its range and is often known simply as turnstone.
It is a fairly small and stocky bird, 22–24 cm (8.7–9.4 in) long with a wingspan of 50–57 cm (20–22 in) and a weight of 85–150 g (3.0–5.3 oz). The dark, wedge-shaped bill is 2–2.5 cm (0.79–0.98 in) long and slightly upturned. The legs are fairly short at 3.5 cm (1.4 in) and are bright orange.
In all seasons, the plumage is dominated by a harlequin-like pattern of black and white. Breeding birds have reddish-brown upper parts with black markings. The head is mainly white with black streaks on the crown and a black pattern on the face. The breast is mainly black apart from a white patch on the sides. The rest of the underparts are white. In flight it reveals a white wingbar, white patch near the base of the wing and white lower back, rump and tail with dark bands on the uppertail-coverts and near the tip of the tail. The female is slightly duller than the male and has a browner head with more streaking.
In the Americas, the species winters on coastlines from Washington and Massachusetts southwards to the southern tip of South America although it is scarce in southern parts of Chile and Argentina and is only an unconfirmed vagrant in the Falkland Islands. In Europe, it winters in western regions from Iceland, Norway and Denmark southwards. Only small numbers are found on Mediterranean coasts. In Africa, it is common all the way down to South Africa with good numbers on many offshore islands. In Asia, it is widespread in the south with birds wintering as far north as southern China and Japan (mainly in the Ryukyu Islands). It occurs south to Tasmania and New Zealand and is present on many Pacific islands. Some non-breeding birds remain year round in many parts of the wintering range, with some of those birds still taking on breeding plumage in the spring and summer.
The ruddy turnstone has a varied diet including carrion, eggs and plant material but it feeds mainly on invertebrates. Insects are particularly important in the breeding season. At other times it also takes crustaceans, mollusks and worms. It often flips over stones and other objects to get at prey items hiding underneath; this behaviour is the origin of the name “turnstone”. It usually forages in flocks.