Family Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes (Scolopacidae)

Least Concern

Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)


French: Tournepierre noir German: Schwarzkopf-Steinwälzer Spanish: Vuelvepiedras oscuro

Strepsilas melanocephalus


, 1829,

north-west coast of North America




W & S Alaska. Winters from SE Alaska to NW Mexico (S Baja California and S Sonora).

Descriptive notes

22–25 cm; 97–169 g; wingspan 48 cm. Large white spot at base of bill; small white spotting on crown, sides of neck, breast and greater coverts; dark spotting on... read more


Similar to that of A. interpres, but more rapid and higher-pitched, including a chattering... read more


Saltgrass, graminoid and dwarf shrub meadows; also tidal marshes; mostly within 2 km of coast, but... read more

Food and feeding

Diet on breeding grounds diverse, but less eclectic compared to that of A. interpres; of 94 stomachs analysed 96.8% contained... read more


Lays mid May–late Jun. Solitary or semi-colonial; densities of 40–111 birds/km², highest in coastal saltgrass meadows.... read more


Less migratory than A. interpres. Migrates along Pacific coast, as far S as Colima, W... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total breeding population estimated at 76,000–114,000 birds (1991) of which 85% nest on C floodplain of Yukon and Kuskokwim... read more

Recommended citation

Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 14 December 2019).