Arenaria interpres


Turnstones are medium-sized, plover-like birds of rocky shores and gravel beaches. Although they don't breed here, turnstones can be seen throughout the year as birds from northern Europe pass through in summer and again in spring, and birds from Canada and Greenland arrive in early autumn and leave in early summer. Turnstones - so-named for their habit of flipping over stones (which may even be as large as themselves!) - feed on a wide variety of prey from bird's eggs to chips and even corpses! They can be spotted creeping and fluttering about the rocks, looking for food underneath them.

How to identify

Unmistakeable. In the winter they are dullish, dark brown above, with a black pattern on the face and breast, a white chin and white belly. During the summer, adults have a colourful, chestnut and black-chequered pattern on the back. When they fly, turnstones show a white patch on the back, broad, white wingbars and white patches at the base of the tail.

Where to find it

A common winter visitor to our coasts. Small numbers may be found all the year round.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

The non-breeding population of turnstones is important in the UK but its coastal habitats are under threat from development, pollution and changing land use. To keep populations of wading birds healthy, we need to ensure that our marine environment is managed properly. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives from coast to deep sea. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Arenaria interpres
Wading birds
Length: 21-24cm Wingspan: 54cm Weight: 120g Average Lifespan: 9 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.