Common Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

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This long-distance migrator, roughly 22 cm in size, migrates annually from its breeding grounds (High Arctic and circumpolar tundra, boreal forests and occasionally temperate zones) to its wintering grounds (coasts of western Europe to South Africa, the Baltic, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean). The Wadden Sea is a well-suited stopover point and the common ruddy turnstone can be easily watched here. The name “turnstone” is derived from how it searches for food: it runs with the waves and pushes its short bill under small stones, mussels or kelp to turn them over. In this way it reveals a diversity of larvae, insects and worms living underneath as well as mussels and snails. It also eats fruit, such as crowberries. Turnstones belong to the sandpiper family. They have a particularly compact, powerfully built stature and relatively short and powerful orange red-coloured legs. The basic plumage of both sexes looks very similar: the head, upperparts and breast are a matt grey brown and the back is mottled. The upperpart of the male’s breeding plumage is a striking red to chestnut brown colour with black patterning. The head and underparts are white with an irregular, black pattern stretching from the breast to the cheeks. Turnstones reach sexual maturity after 2 years but tend to breed from their third year onwards. A clutch generally comprising 4 eggs is laid in the scrape nest, which is built in a hollow formed between stones and plant parts. The eggs are conical in shape, resembling a spinning top: elongated, one end is wide and oval, the other clearly pointed. This colonial form prevents them from rolling away on uneven, rocky ground. The faded brown colouring and olive green mottle helps to camouflage the eggs well. Both the male and female will incubate and protect the young chicks until they are fully fledged. Research shows that the common ruddy turnstone will be strongly affected by climate change and the concomitant loss of breeding grounds.

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