My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres

The Ruddy Turnstone is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. 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 a fairly small and stocky bird, 22–24 centimeters (8.7–9.4 in) long with a wingspan of 50–57 centimeters (20–22 in) and a weight of 85–150 g (3.0–5.3 oz). The dark, wedge-shaped bill is 2–2.5 centimeters (0.79–0.98 in) long and slightly upturned. The legs are fairly short at 3.5 centimeters (1.4 in) and are bright orange.

At 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 upper tail-coverts and near the tip of the tail. The female is slightly duller than the male and has a browner head with more streaking.

Non-breeding adults are duller than breeding birds and have dark grey-brown upper parts with black mottling and a dark head with little white. Juvenile birds have a pale brown head and pale fringes to the upper part feathers creating a scaly impression.

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.

Ruddy Turnstones typically feed on insects in the summer, though their diet is extended to other invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, and worms in other seasons.

They have also been observed preying on the eggs of other bird species such as gulls, terns, ducks, and even other turnstones, though this behavior is uncommon. In the majority of observed cases, Turnstones typically go after undefended or unattended nests, puncturing the shells with their beaks to get at the contents within.

When foraging, Turnstones adopt different postures indicative of their level of dominance. A lowered tail and a hunched stance is associated with chasing and aggression, and thus a dominant individual. Dominance in aggression is age-related, with juveniles assuming the subordinate role a disproportionate amount of the time.

It is a monogamous bird and pairs may remain together for more than one breeding season. The nest is a shallow scrape, often with a lining of leaves. It is about 11 centimeters across and 3 centimeters deep. It may be built among vegetation or on bare stony or rocky ground. Several pairs may nest close together.

A single clutch of two to five eggs is laid with four being most common. The eggs measure about 41 millimeters by 29 and weigh around 17.9 grams. They are smooth, slightly glossy and oval to pear-shaped. They are variable in color but are commonly pale green-brown with dark brown markings, densest at the larger end. Incubation begins when the first egg is laid and lasts for about 22–24 days. The female is mainly responsible for incubating the eggs but the male may help towards the end.

The young birds are precocial and are able to leave the nest soon after hatching. They are buff above with dark grey markings and are white below. They are able to feed themselves but are protected by the parents, particularly the male. They fledge after 19–21 days.

On to my photos:

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

IMG_3604

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

This is number 107 in my photo life list, only 243 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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2 responses

  1. That certainly is an interestingly marked bird!

    June 26, 2013 at 1:38 am

    • Yes it is.

      June 26, 2013 at 2:04 am