Black Turnstone

Arenaria melanocephala




Sandpipers, Phalaropes (Scolopacidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Yellow green to olive with dark brown blotches

Number of Eggs:

3 - 4

Incubation Days:

21 - 24

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On ground.

Nest Material:

Lined with grass.





Black Turnstone: Medium-sized sandpiper with scaled black upperparts, white spot between eye and bill, black breast with white speckles on sides, and white belly. Short, dark bill is slightly upturned. Back, wings, and rump display a dramatic black-and-white pattern in flight. Sexes are similar. Winter adult is duller and lacks white on face. Juvenile is similar to winter adult but is dark brown.

Range and Habitat

Black Turnstone: This species breeds on western and southern coasts of Alaska. Spends winters along the coastal regions of North America, from southern Alaska south to Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. Breeding habit includes marshy coastal tundra; found on seaweed-covered rocky shores in fall and winter.

Breeding and Nesting

Black Turnstone: Three to four yellow green to olive eggs, with dark brown blotches, are laid in an unlined depression on an open, pebbly ridge or a gravel bar on wet tundra. Incubation ranges from 21 to 24 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Black Turnstone: Eats insects, barnacles, crustaceans, and mollusks; uses its wedge-like bill to turn over seashells and rocks while foraging.


Black Turnstone: Song is a grating rattle.

Similar Species

Black Turnstone: Ruddy Turnstone is browner and has a pale area within dark breast bands, brighter red legs, and may show traces of rust-brown on back. Surfbird is paler and has yellow legs.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X