Note the sharp, well-defined toenails on this Black Turnstone. It shares this adaptive characteristic in common with Ruddy Turnstones, enabling the two species to easily walk on the slick, seaweed covered rocks they frequent. (Chignik Lagoon, July 27, 2020)
On the same day I photographed Ruddy Turnstones at Chignik Lagoon, I encountered their somewhat chubbier cousins, Black Turnstones. When we first arrived, there appeared to be a small flock of the Blacks, but they took wing as we beached our scow. I found the lone specimen in the above photo hanging out near a pair of Wandering Tattlers.
These stout, robin-sized birds get their name from the manner in which they use their chisel-like bill to turn over kelp, stones and other debris in search of invertebrates and fish eggs. They even use their bill as a plow, moving through washed up seaweed and dining on whatever is stirred up or uncovered. Black Turnstones also use their bills to hammer at and pry open barnacles and bivalves.
Because they are Pacific Coast residents rather than the long-distance migrants their Ruddy relatives are, they can be seen throughout the year on rocky coasts from the more southerly parts of Alaska as far south as Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
Black Turnstone Range Map: with permission from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of the World
Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala
Arenaria: Latin arenarius. arena = sand; inhabiting sand
melanocephala: Ancient Greek melas = black + kephale = head; black headed
Status at Chignik Lake: Occasional as a post-breeding migrant along the shorelines of Chignik Lagoon and Chignik Bay
David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63: Occasional at Black Lake
Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010:
Uncommon in Spring & Fall; Rare in Summer; Not reported in Winter
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Bird List: Present
Click here for the: Table of Contents and Complete List of Birds of Chignik Lake
© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.
For a list of reference materials used in this project, see: Birds of Chignik Lake
Another interesting bird story.