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Meet the Species: Turnstone


During the summer months, creeping along a rocky beach in the northern fringes of the world will often get you face to face with the ruddy turnstone. As their name suggests, they generally spend their days hugging the shoreline. Striding among their own kind, turning over stones.

This strange habit, isn’t just for fun, they are, in fact, seeking the molluscs sheltering under these rocks. In such a pursuit – nature has gifted them with splayed feet, strong beaks and muscular bodies which enable them to flip stones the same size as themselves.  This is their main means of sustenance and it continues all year round.  During the winter both sexes lose their reddish-brown colouration and migrate south. Feasting on the rock—dwelling inhabitants of northern Africa and southern Spain. Once the warmer months return, males will become more striking – being characterised by a delicately painted, tortoise-shell patterned back and reddish hue.

This change to summer dress, signals more than a change in the season.  The turnstone’s more-colourful appearance, as with most birds, indicates that it is almost time to mate.  The male will shortly etch out his own territory and begin his search. Once he has found a female whom shows interest, he will pursue her. On the ground and in the air.

Once exhaustion has finally worn her down, he will bring her to his well-defended territory. In which, four greenish eggs will be discreetly laid, usually in the middle of May.  The nests are usually built on the rocky islands and shores in small depressions. Lined with dry vegetation, both parents are thought to care for the young.

Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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