Arenaria Interpres – Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria Interpres - Ruddy Turnstone found migrating in central US

The Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) is a small wading bird that is one of two turnstone species in the genus Arenaria. It is now categorized as a sandpiper in the Scolopacidae family but was previously classified as a plover in the Charadriidae family. It is a very migratory bird, breeding in northern Eurasia and North America and migrating south to winter along nearly every coastline on the planet. It is the only turnstone species in a large portion of its range and is frequently referred to simply as turnstone.

Quick Overview: Arenaria Interpres – Ruddy Turnstone
Body size: Around 9-10 in (23-25 cm) and a weight of 190 g (6.7 oz)
Main colors: Red-Brown, White, Black, Orange, Brown
Range: Central United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: March, April, May, September, October, November
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Ruddy turnstone Description

The upper parts of this medium-sized sandpiper are reddish-brown, the rump and underparts are white, and the face is black-marked. The beak is short and dark, somewhat upturned, the tail is white with a black terminal band, and the legs and foot are orange. In-flight, the wings exhibit an unusual brown, black, and white pattern.

Arenaria Interpres - Ruddy Turnstone found migrating in central US
Arenaria Interpres – Ruddy Turnstone. Photo by: Jean and Fred


These birds have a length of 9-10 in (23-25 cm) and a weight of 190 g (6.7 oz). Their wings could range from 17-18 in (43-46 cm).


The nutrition of the ruddy turnstone varies periodically according to its wintering and breeding locations. They feed predominantly on invertebrates, particularly insects during the breeding season and crabs, mollusks, and other marine invertebrates during migration and winter. During the breeding season, ruddy turnstones employ their sturdy bills to turn over boulders, probe through tundra flora or soils, and hunt for insect food.


Throughout the breeding season, ruddy turnstones can be found in arctic tundra and rocky coastal locations, as well as along beaches during the winter and migration. During the winter, ruddy turnstones prefer sandy coastlines and mudflats, although they can also be found on rocky beaches, wetlands, and other intertidal regions.


Outside of the breeding season, ruddy turnstones are sociable, congregating in small groups of tens to thousands and interacting with other shorebird species. Ruddy turnstones are aggressive and territorial during the breeding season. Outside of breeding seasons, they are also hostile toward other shorebirds fighting for food.

Arenaria Interpres Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolapacidae
  • Genus: Arenaria
  • Species: Arenaria interpres

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds are during the Spring season (March-May) and during the Autumn season (September – November).

Distribution of the Ruddy turnstone in the USA

Ruddy turnstones are one of the most northern shorebirds that breed. They breed throughout the arctic tundra from Alaska to Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, the Baltic Islands, and northern Siberia, where they breed near the Bering Sea. They can be found along the coasts of northern Massachusetts and northern California, the Antilles, Central and South America, and Tierra del Fuego, as well as throughout Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands throughout the winter.

The Ruddy turnstone can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Arenaria Interpres – Ruddy Turnstone

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