Saturday, 21 September 2013

Turnstone

This Saturday I am bringing another of the waders that I saw at Newcastle,Co. Down (see 14 September Ringed Plover).  This time it is the turn of the Turnstone and as this little bird is often well camouflaged in its surrounding, I am giving you a challenge at the end of the post!  I will give you  information about the Turnstone interspersed through the photographs.



 It is a stocky wader with short, orange legs and short, sharp, black bill. Black and white head, white underparts with black semi-collar on neck and black breast band. Back orange-brown with black stripes. Wings orange-brown, black, and dark grey with white wing stripe. Black and white tail.
It is a fairly small and stocky bird, 8.7–9.4ins long with a wingspan of 20–22ins and a weight of  3.0–5.3ozs. The dark, wedge-shaped bill is 
0.79–0.98ins long and slightly upturned. The legs are fairly short at 1.4ins and are bright orange.

Feeding and diet
Turnstones typically feed on insects in the summer, though their diet is extended to other invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, and worms in other seasons.

They have also been observed preying on the eggs of other bird species such as gulls, terns, ducks, and even other Turnstones, though this behaviour is uncommon. In the majority of observed cases, Turnstones typically go after undefended or unattended nests, puncturing the shells with their beaks to get at the contents within.

  • Turnstones engage in a variety of behaviours to locate and capture prey. These behaviours can be placed into six general categories:

  • Routing — The Turnstone manipulates piles of seaweed through flicking, bulldozing, and pecking to expose small crustaceans or gastropod molluscs hidden underneath.
  • Turning stones — As per its name, the Turnstone flicks stones with its bill to uncover hidden littorinids and gammarid amphipods.
  • Digging — With small flicks of its bill, the Turnstone creates holes in the ground substrate (usually sand or mud) and then pecks at the exposed prey - often sandhoppers or seaweed flies.
  • Probing — The Turnstone inserts its bill more than a quarter-length into the ground to get at littorinids and other gastropods.
  • Hammer–probing — The Turnstone cracks open its prey's shell by using its bill as a hammer, and then extracts the animal inside through pecking and probing.[4]
  • Surface pecking — The Turnstone uses short, shallow pecks (less than a quarter bill-length) to get at prey at or just below the ground's surface.
  • There is evidence that Turnstones vary between these feeding behaviours based on individual preference, sex, and even social status with respect to other Turnstones. In one studied population, dominant individuals tended to engage in routing while preventing subordinates from doing the same. When these dominant individuals were temporarily removed, some of the subordinates started to rout, while others enacted no change in foraging strategy.


Aggression and territory defence.

When foraging, Turnstones adopt different postures indicative of their level of dominance. A lowered tail and a hunched stance is associated with chasing and aggression, and thus a dominant individual. Dominance in aggression is age-related, with juveniles assuming the subordinate role a disproportionate amount of the time.


It is a monogamous bird and pairs may remain together for more than one breeding season. The nest is a shallow scrape, often with a lining of leaves. It is about 11 centimetres across and 3 centimetres deep. It may be built amongst vegetation or on bare stony or rocky ground. Several pairs may nest close together.

A single clutch of two to five eggs is laid with four being most common. The eggs measure about 41 millimetres by 29 and weigh around 17.9 grams. They are smooth, slightly glossy and oval to pear-shaped. They are variable in colour but are commonly pale green-brown with dark brown markings, densest at the larger end. Incubation begins when the first egg is laid and lasts for about 22–24 days. The female is mainly responsible for incubating the eggs but the male may help towards the end.

The young birds are precocial and are able to leave the nest soon after hatching. They are buff above with dark grey markings and are white below. They are able to feed themselves but are protected by the parents, particularly the male. They fledge after 19–21 days.



Notice the size difference between the 
Sanderling, Ringed Plover. Turnstone and Redshank.


The plumage patterns of Turnstones exhibit an unusual amount of variation in comparison with other shorebirds. Turnstones use these unique plumage patterns to recognise individuals and discriminate intruders in their territory from neighbours occupying an adjacent territory. When a fake fibreglass Turnstone model is placed in a Turnstone's territory, the occupant is less likely to respond aggressively if the model is painted to have the plumage pattern of a neighbouring Turnstone.


Turnstones are migrant and winter visitors to the UK.  Birds can be seen year round, as some pass through, while others winter, and non-breeding birds may stay the summer.  Can be found at most UK coastlines except northern mainland Scotland.  Birds prefer coastal shorelines whether sandy, rocky or muddy.



INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Turnstone was first described in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist.
  • As their name suggests, they often forage by turning over stones and other objects.
  • A group of sandpipers has many collective nouns, including a "cluster", "contradiction", "fling", and "time-step" of sandpipers.
  • As part of courtship, the male Turnstone makes nest-like scrapes in the ground within his territory, often close to the final site selected by the female. The male's scrapes are made before the female starts to lay eggs, and are part of the courtship and nest site selection process. No eggs are laid in the scrapes the male makes.



These are Turnstone and Dunlin


 At all seasons, the plumage is dominated by a harlequin-like pattern of black and white. Breeding birds have reddish-brown upper parts with black markings. The head is mainly white with black streaks on the crown and a black pattern on the face. The breast is mainly black apart from a white patch on the sides. The rest of the under parts are white. In flight it reveals a white wing bar, white patch near the base of the wing and white lower back, rump and tail with dark bands on the upper tail-coverts and near the tip of the tail. The female is slightly duller than the male and has a browner head with more streaking.

Non-breeding adults are duller than breeding birds and have dark grey-brown upper parts with black mottling and a dark head with little white. Juvenile birds have a pale brown head and pale fringes to the upper part feathers creating a scaly impression.



Now are you up for the challenge?

The photo above has 3 different species of birds.

One of them is the Turnstone and there is more than one of them!
How many Turnstone can you find?
There is only of each of the other two species.
I think this is difficult but we are birders always on the look out for birds!
Answers at end of tomorrow's post

I hope you enjoyed this post and challenge.

Thank you for visiting.

I am linking The Bird D'Pot

33 comments:

  1. Super information and fabulous photos!

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  2. not even going to attempt that one!

    they are cute with their short legs and plump bodies.

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    1. Hi EG and Tex
      Many thanks for your comments.

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  3. Well I think I see three of the turnstones, and that was only after alot of squinting and blowing up this photo. Am I close. They are definitely well camoflaged.

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    1. HI Jeanne Many thanks for the comments and taking up the 'challenge;. the answer is in tomrrows's post.

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  4. Hi Margaret!
    Do not try to guess.
    I like beautiful birds and your fantastic photos.
    This is a very interesting post.
    I send greetings.
    Lucia

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    1. Hi Lucja Many thaks for your comment and glad you liked the post.

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  5. Searching only finding ONE in all the camouflaged landscape. LOVE the one in flight image...I've tried to no avail to get on clear enough to save. You did good. And I did not know they eat eggs of others and of their own kind. News to me.

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    1. Hi Anni Many thanks for the comments and taking up the 'challenge;. the answer is in tomrrows's post.

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  6. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  7. I can see 5 definate Turnstones, 1 Redshank but one bird eludes my identification, can't be sure is it a Purple Sandpiper?

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    1. HI Douglas Many thanks for the comments and taking up the 'challenge;. the answer is in tomrrows's post. You are certainly very close.

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  8. What cutie pies with their fat little bellies and their beautiful and colorful legs. These pictures entertained me for quite a while just looking at them and then looking again and again. Beautiful photography and an awesome science lesson. Wish i had had you for my teacher. genie

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    1. HI Genie MAny thanksf or your kind comments and I am glad you liked the information and photos and that you have learned something.

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  9. Goodness their camoflague is good. My brain hurts after attempting that challenge.

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  10. Turnstones! They really are well camouflaged!! And so beautiful in flight. I LOVE this game, it is like the finding ones you can buy! But I am so bad at this! After looking and looking, I can only find ONE! The one slightly above the center

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    1. Blow the photograph up and you may see more!

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  11. Turnstone is superb bird, you caught it very well, especially in the air.

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  12. Great shots and information about these lovely little waders, Margaret.

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    1. Hi Thanks for comment and glad you enjoyed the info and photos.

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  13. They are short and stocky and their little orange legs are quite vibrant.
    Love that flight shot - what a great feather pattern!

    I think I see six birds total. :)

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    1. HI Carletta Thanks for comment and glad you enjoyed the flight shot.

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  14. I loved learning about this Turnstone. Great post Margaret, and information. I will leave the challenge up to more experienced birders. I am still a fledgling ;)

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    1. Hi Denise Thanks for comment and glad you liked learning about this bird but being a fledgling means your could have learned even more if you had taken up the challenge!

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  15. The round little bodies and orange legs are so cute. Love the in-flight photo.

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  16. You took some great shots of the Turnstones Margaret. That last picture just proves how hard it is to spot waders on a stretch of pebbly shore. I often see people flush all the waders from the beach and than look astonished that anything was ther in the first plale.

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  17. Hi Phil Many thanks for comments. I hope you were able to find all the birds yourself!

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