Black Turnstone, Arenaria melanocephala


Black Turnstone
Black Turnstones are regular winter residents of the rocky ocean shores along the Pacific Coast from southern Alaska to Baja California; they breed in western Alaska. They are thus much less widely distributed than their close relatives the Ruddy Turnstones, which range over the whole arctic as breeders, and the coasts of all the continents in winter. Black Turnstones look soberly elegant when they pose, as above, on the top of the rocks that help form their habitat; less so in the foraging mode that gives them their common name, as they toss and turn rocks and seaweed in search of food, as below, or scramble to stay out of the way of ocean waves, as in the next image down.


Black Turnstone


Black Turnstone

Black Turnstone
Another typical view of a winter Black Turnstone in repose, above, with the characteristic banker's look. The bird below is just back from the northern nesting grounds in late August, and is partway through its prebasic molt from breeding plumage, which features glossy black feathers, white markings on the side of the head, and white speckling on the side of the breast. The non-breeding plumage represented by the bird above and all the others shown on this page has dark brown rather than black feathers, no white speckling on the breast, and the white marks on the face either subdued, as above, or entirely absent.
 

Black Turnstone
Above, the sober dark brown above and white below of a Black Turnstone in repose starts to break up as the bird begins to spread its wings. In the two images below, with wings fully spread in flight, the bird shows a strikingly variegated black and white pattern.


Black Turnstone

Black Turnstone