Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
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General Comments Except for the closely related Black Turnstone of the Pacific Coast, the Ruddy Turnstone is a rather unique shorebird in the East, with no other species resembling it or behaving like it. Like most other shorebirds, it is seen in the state almost solely along the coast, with inland records normally at large reservoirs in fall, especially during and immediately after stormy weather. Turnstones along the coast are almost strictly tidal birds, feeding on upper parts of beaches (above the surf), on rocks, jetties, etc., oyster beds, and tidal flats, usually where there are many shells/rocks. They can be seen at impoundments, fresh pools, and fresh mud flats, but these are clearly secondary habitats.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient and winter resident, mainly along the coast. Common migrant along the coast, though seldom in large numbers (such as at Delaware Bay); in winter, fairly common to common along the southernmost coast (Brunswick and New Hanover), fairly common along the central coast, but uncommon north of Cape Hatteras (and may be rare in midwinter). Rare to uncommon along the coast all summer. In the Tidewater area, generally rare to locally uncommon in migration, and rare at best in winter. Farther inland, accidental/casual in spring and very rare in fall, with just three spring (2 at Fayetteville on 3 May 1978, one at Goldsboro on 24 May 2020, and one at Goldsboro on 23 May 2021) andnine fall records (28 Jul - 19 Sep). Normal dates along the coast: late Jul to early Jun; notable spring flight in mid-May. Peak counts: 1,200, Oregon Inlet, 18 May 1976.
Piedmont Transient. Very rare in spring, and rare in fall, mainly at large reservoirs. In spring, only in May (10 reports); fall dates average from late Jul to the end of Sep, rarely to late Oct. One winter record: one at Falls Lake on 17 Dec 2007. Peak counts: 38, Jordan Lake, 11 Aug 1986; 10, Jordan Lake, 30 Aug 1988; peak spring count only 3 birds, at Lake Crabtree (Wake), 5 May 2013.
Mountains Transient. Very rare in spring and fall, with all records from Henderson except for a single bird believed to have been forced down by Tropical Storm Lee in Watauga on 6 Sep 2011. The four spring records are of a flock at Lake Osceola from 13-27 May 2003, with a remarkable peak count of 20 birds during the period; a total of 9 seen at Hooper Lane, 22 May 2003; a stunning count of 30 birds at Hooper Lane, 16 May 2018; and another amazing flock of 27 at that last site, 20 May 2020. The fall records are of 2-5 birds at Hooper Lane, 21-28 Sep 1998; 1 at Mills River, 17 Sep 2004; 2 along Hooper Lane, 4 Aug 2012; up to 2 at Hooper Lane, 1-3 Aug 2018; 3 east of Brevard (Transylvania), 3 Aug 2018; and 4 at Hooper Lane, 18 Aug 2021.
Finding Tips Turnstones are widespread along the coast, at least during the migrations, and are easily found, except in midwinter.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2022-09-12]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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