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Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

A small wading bird which travels to the Solent every winter from Greenland, Lapland and Canada. Although turnstones don’t breed here, you can usually see them throughout the year since birds from different areas pass through in summer and spring, and those that spend the colder months on the Solent arrive in the early autumn and leave by early summer.

It has a distinctive pointed wedge-shaped bill and bright orange legs. In winter it has a mottled grey and brown back, head and breast with a dark breast band and a white belly. They look very different in the summer when their plumage is a more vibrant chequered pattern of chestnut and black. In flight they show a white patch on their backs, broad white wing bars and white patches at the base of their tail.

All about turnstone

Turnstone feed on the shore turning over stones, pebbles and seaweed to look for insects, crustaceans and shellfish to eat. At low tide you can see them in flocks busily searching for food along the shore. Listen out for the noise of them rummaging around.

At high tide you will see turnstone roosting on harbour walls, jetties and boats. They are resting up and waiting for the tide to go back out so they can carry on looking for food.

They attract a fair amount of attention from people around the Solent as they are quite bold and people can get quite close before they move away.

Conservation status

Turnstone are amber listed in the UK.  They are a qualifying feature for the Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Area – that means, when the site was designated, a nationally significant number of turnstone used these coastlines in the winter.

Did you know?

As their name suggests, they turn over stones to look for food. They can even lift a stone as big as their bodies.