I usually spot Ruddy Turnstones in winter, hunkered down on windswept jetties being blasted by salt spray in the company of Purple Sandpipers.  Either that, or I see them in spring with hordes of other shorebirds feeding on the eggs of Horseshoe Crabs.  Until last weekend I can’t recall ever spotting a Ruddy Turnstone actually turning a stone so you can imagine how pleased I was to see several doing just that on a rocky beach at Brigantine on the day after the World Series of Birding.  It was fun to watch the turnstones actually turning stones though it was frustrating to try to digiscope them in the act of flipping a rock to look for juicy invertebrates underneath.  Eventually, with patience and persistence, I succeeded!

Ruddy Turnstone is a Species of Least Concern according to BirdLife International.  It has an enormous range, occurring in such far-flung locales as New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Alaska, Greenland, and Brazil, to name just a few.  There are a lot of Ruddy Turnstones, likely over 500,000, and though the population appears to be in decline it is not a steep decline.  It is one of two turnstone species, the other being the Black Turnstone A. melanocephala, which has a much more limited range.  In Europe the Ruddy Turnstone is known simply as Turnstone because it is the only turnstone they have, while in the United States you can occasionally find old-timers who call them Calico Birds for obvious reasons.

Whatever you call Arenaria interpres it is a gorgeous shorebird and well worth watching.  Here’s hoping you spot a Calico Bird this spring while they are still in their breeding plumage!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.