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the web of life in southern Africa

Arenaria interpres (Ruddy turnstone, Turnstone) 

Steenloper [Afrikaans]; Steenloper [Dutch]; Tournepierre à collier [French]; Steinwälzer [German]; Rola-do-mar [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Scolopacidae

Arenaria interpres (Ruddy turnstone, Turnstone) 

Ruddy turnstone in non-breeding plumage, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Arenaria interpres (Ruddy turnstone, Turnstone) 

Ruddy turnstone in breeding plumage, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in the circumpolar above 65° North in Canada, Greenland, Europe and Asia, dispersing across the world's coasts in the non-breeding season to North and South America, western Europe, southern and South-East Asia, Australasia, Pacific Ocean islands, Madagascar and Africa, including southern Africa. Here it is common along the coastline of the region, especially at Langebaan Lagoon in summer, while occasionally recorded far inland in northern Zimbabwe and Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It generally prefers stony, rocky and kelp-covered shores, or sand flats covered with eelgrass (Zostera), occasionally moving to inland wetland such as lake edges, salt pans and river edges.

Distribution of Ruddy turnstone in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Intercontinental migrant, breeding from late May to early August before heading south to the tropics, arriving in the period from August-September but eventually getting to southern Africa in September and October. Most birds depart in April, occasionally in May, finally arriving back at their breeding grounds in June.


It mainly eats invertebrates, doing most of its foraging in the day at low and high tide, turning over stones and algal mats with its strong bill to access the food beneath or even gathering together in groups to turn over particularly large objects, such as dead fish. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • gastropods
    • isopods
      • Parisocladus perforatus (Isopod)
    • polychaetes
    • insect larvae
    • amphipods
    • bivalves
    • ticks (including Ornithodoros capensis)


Not threatened, as it is common and occurs on six continents.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.