Birds – Turnstones

We may appropriately begin the consideration of this, the largest of the six families, with the interesting little Turnstones (Arenaria), so called from their constant habit of turning over shells and pebbles in search of their food of insects and crustaceans. Of the two species the Common Turn-stone (A. interpres) is practically cosmopolitan, mainly along seacoasts, breeding in the Arctic regions, and in America migrating southward as far as the Straits of Magellan. It is about nine and one half inches long, with the upper parts including the wings mainly dusky, variegated more or less with rufous and white, the head being mostly white, and the chest a uniform deep black, while the rump, throat, and abdomen are pure white, and the legs and feet are orange; in winter the plumage is somewhat darker. It is observed singly or in small parties, sticking closely to the outer, especially rocky, beaches, and gleaning its food among stranded seaweed, and several have been observed to assist in overturning a stone too large for the effort of a single bird. Palmer mentions them as being exceedingly abundant in fall on the Pribilof Islands, where they become excessively fat. Their departure in flocks of a hundred or more took place at evening, the flock rising and circling about several times until attaining the proper elevation, when they headed straight out to sea, often through a dense bank of fog, their destination being the Aleutians, some 200 miles away. The Black Turnstone (A. melartocephala) of the Pacific coast of North America is a little smaller and much darker and has the throat dusky instead of white.