• Name: Turnstone | Arenaria interpres
  • Size: 50-57cm wingspan
  • Life span: 6-7 years  
  • Diet: Turnstones have a varied diet including carrion, eggs and plant material but mainly feeds on invertebrates, crustaceans, worms and molluscs.  Often flipping over stones and other objects to get at prey items hiding underneath; this behaviour is the origin of the name "turnstone".
  • Reproduction: Turnstones are monogamous, which means they mate with only one partner during a breeding season.  Once paired they will generally return to the same mate the following season; with a female laying 2-5 eggs.  Although they do not nest here.
  • When to see: Throughout the year (January to December)
  • Where to see: Turnstones can often be seen feeding along the tideline on many of our beaches, i.e. Town Beach, St Mary's, Samson, Appletree Bay, Tresco and Periglis, St Agnes in Scilly. 
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Least Concern (Global).  Birds of Conservation Concern 4 | Amber (UK)
  • Population Trend: Decreasing
  • Threats:  Human activity/disturbance through increases in recreational activities, naturally fluctuating water-levels flooding their nest sites, habitat loss from coastal development, erosion, pollution and invasive species.
  • Fun Fact: Turnstones travel more than 1000 km a day during their migrations. These migration paths can lead a Turnstone along a trip that extends more than 27,000 km in a year and over 500,000 km in their lifetimes!

Description:  Turnstones are medium-sized sandpipers of rocky shores and gravel beaches.

In winter, the Turnstone is dark brown above, with a black pattern on the face and breast, a white chin, white belly and orange legs. During summer, adults have a colourful, chestnut- and black-chequered pattern on the back. When they fly, Turnstones show a white patch on the back, broad, white wingbars, and white patches at the base of the tail.

They spend most of their time running and fluttering over rocks, picking out food from under stones.  You will often see them in small groups chittering away to each other as they follow the lapping waves in and out along the shoreline.

Although they don't breed here, they can be seen throughout the year as birds from northern Europe pass through in summer and again in spring, and birds from Canada and Greenland arrive in early autumn and leave in early summer.


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With thanks to Tom Marshall and the Wildlife Trusts for the Turnstone image