Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Scientific name definitions

David N. Nettleship
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020


Field Identification

Small, arctic-breeding shorebird (length 21–26 cm, wingspan 50–57 cm, mass 84–190 g); sexes similar. Stocky with short, orange legs and short, wedge-shaped, black, slightly upturned bill. In Alternate plumage, black and white head, throat, neck, and breast; upperparts rufous-chestnut with black-brown patches, producing a variegated russet color pattern responsible for its name; underparts white; with relatively short, orangy-red legs with unwebbed anterior toes with black nails. Distinctive in flight, with white back, rump, uppertail coverts; wing-bar and patch on inner wing contrast with otherwise dark upperparts. Adult male and female usually distinguishable in Alternate plumage, male with pronounced black and white separate streaks along crown, whitish nape, brighter upperparts, and no flecking on breast patch; female crown more mottled with extensive streaking and brownish nape, duller upperparts overall (Nettleship Nettleship 1967, Nettleship 1973a; Ferns 1978a, Whitfield 1986). Nonbreeding (Basic plumaged) adult has plumage pattern similar to breeding adult but much duller, with head darker, black head- and breast-markings replaced with dark grayish brown, and black and rufous markings on upperparts replaced with dark grayish brown and blackish. Immatures similar to Basic-plumaged adult, with browner upperparts and paler head .

Similar Species

Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) similar, especially dorsal pattern on wings and tail in flight, but differs in being more uniformly dark above, having dark, purple-brown legs and toes (versus orange or orangy-red on Ruddy Turnstone), darker and rather uniform pattern across breast (Ruddy with patches of white and uneven border across lower breast), and always having black on chin and throat (Ruddy usually white there).

Recommended Citation

Nettleship, D. N. (2020). Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rudtur.01