Another predominant shorebird that visits theThe ruddy turnstone winters on three coasts from
Delaware Bay is the ruddy turnstone. This traveler is a short-legged bird about eight to ten inches in length. It has a short, dark bill that is slightly upturned at the end and a harlequin pattern of black, white and rust-red in alternating patterns on its top along with a black patch on its chest (Go downtown and you’ll probably see a similar pattern on certain “ladies” standing on the street corner.). Its belly is white and its short legs are coral-red. In summer, its uppersides are a combination of white, rusty-red and black. To many people (at least to this observer), the ruddy turnstone often looks like it has been playing in an artist’s palette - carrying away a panache of colors here and there on its body.
When it searches for food, the ruddy turnstone has the unique ability of flipping over rocks as it looks for small animals, typically invertebrates. This unique rock-flipping action gives it its name (Some folks call it the “seaweed bird” because it often feeds among the kelp at low tide.). In addition, they have the ability to dig into the sand in pursuit of tiny crustaceans. Its diet is diverse and eclectic – dining primarily on small mollusks, crustaceans, grasshoppers, insects, larvae, maggots, worms, and, of course, the eggs of horseshoe crabs.
Males and females will pair off either before or after reaching their breeding ground. They tend to build their nests in open grassy areas near the water. After the female lays approximately four eggs in a grassy area both parents will trade off incubating the eggs. Just like urban street gangs or a slightly inebriated construction worker guarding a certain barstool at the local bar, the male turnstones are extremely territorial. They will often patrol the border of the nesting site and will aggressively chase away any potential intruders. About 22-24 days after the eggs are laid, the chicks will hatch – with both parents caring for the young. However, the female will leave before the chicks are fully fledged (sounds like a recurring soap opera theme) while the male remains.