Arenaria melanocephala

DescriptionBlack Turnstones are seen on a whale watching boat tour with Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island.

  • Black turnstones measure 9 inches (23 cm)
  • Resembles ruddy turnstone in general patterns
  • In breeding plumage, black upper parts, head, and breast; large white spot in front of eye and white line above eye; fine white spotting from nape across side of breast; white belly
  • In winter plumage, dusky black with white belly
  • Legs dark. Bill short and slightly upturned. In flight, shows a black and white pattern

Habitat

Breeds in marshy coastal tundra; seaweed-covered rocky shores in fall and winter

Nesting

Four yellowish-olive eggs, with darker olive and brown markings, in an unlined depression on an open, pebbly ridge or a gravel bar in wet tundra.

Range

Breeds on western and southern coasts of Alaska. Winters all along West Coast from Alaska south to Baja California and Sonora, Mexico.

Voice

A grating rattle similar to that of ruddy turnstone.

Discussion

Unlike the ruddy turnstone, a more widespread species, the black turnstone is partial to rocky coasts. Turnstones are aggressive; a wintering bird that has found a good foraging spot will hotly defend it against other turnstones.