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Description of the Black Turnstone


The Black Turnstone is a medium size, chunky shorebird with mostly black upperparts and breast, a white belly, and dark, reddish-brown legs.  Length: 9 in.  Wingspan: 21 in.


black turnstone


Same as male.

Seasonal change in appearance

White lore spot and eyebrow of breeding birds become dark in the winter.

black turnstone

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Photographs © Alan Wilson and Glenn Bartley.


Similar to adults but more brownish.


Rocky coastlines.


Mollusks, barnacles, and insects.


Forages by walking throughout coastal rocks.


Breeds in Alaska and winters along the west coast of North America. Populations appear to be declining.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Black Turnstone.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History


Fun Facts

The mostly black plumage of the Black Turnstone gives it excellent camouflage against the dark shoreline rocks it inhabits.

Black Turnstones are loud, aggressive defenders of their nesting territories.


Screaming rattles are often given.


The nest is a grass-lined depression on the ground.

Number: 4.
Color: Greenish with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
- Young hatch at 22-24 days.
- Young fledge (leave the nest) soon after hatching, but remain with the adults for some time.