Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

22-24cm

Appearance

A sturdy-looking wader with a somewhat stumpy, triangular bill, large head, reddish-orange legs, and a black and white wing pattern when flying. Plumages differ across the seasons; spring plumage is bold orange and brown marbling on the back, white underparts, black breast and black-and-white markings on the head. The colours on the male's back are more vivid than in the female, and his head markings are clearer. During winter, the underparts are white with a contrasting black breast, and the head, neck and upperparts are mostly grey-brown. When flying, the wings have white bars, the tail is black-and-white, and there are white back and shoulder stripes. Juveniles resemble the winter adult, but the back is paler, and the feathers have light edges.

Habitat

Is a regular visitor to all coasts of the region, particularly places with rocky shores and abundant tideline. Can also feed on the muddier shores of estuaries, and in close proximity to mussel beds. Breeding occurs on small islands and on Arctic tundra.

Character

Makes use of its bill to flip small rocks and debris on the tideline in search of invertebrates, avoiding waves and sometimes swimming. Usually seen in small groups, and perches on outposts in the water or on shore.

Food

Diet is varied and includes mussels, barnacles, sandhoppers, periwinkles, crabs and insects.

Breeding

This is not a regular breeding bird in the region. Birds arrive on breeding territories with their mate; a scrape is made on bare ground or in low plant cover, and the female usually lays 4 eggs which both adults incubate for 23 days. Female deserts prior to the young gaining independence, which takes approximately 19-21 days.

Population

Most of the region's birds breed in northern Europe, Greenland and north-east Canada. Northern European birds arrive in July and August on their way to Africa where they spend winter. Canadian and Greenlandic birds arrive in Britain and Ireland between August and October. More than 51 000 birds populate British shores in winter, and approximately 12 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

A generously distributed bird that can be seen in most coastal areas of the region during winter.

Voice

Has a reverberating 'tuk-ut-ut' call that's uttered in flight, and an undulating 'quitta, quitta, quitta' when on breeding territory.
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