Florida’s Ruddy Turnstone
By Kelly Dean
I know. The name of this bird sounds like the name of a British actor. But its arrival in Florida is something to which I look forward each winter. They are the skittering entertainers at the beach. They are the little snack stealers at the pier. They are our little roadrunners of Florida – at least for a while.
There are more glamorous birds, for sure. The great white egret is abundant and can be breathtaking. Roseate spoonbills are pretty cool as well. But the small birds catch my attention. The ruddy turnstones keep you entertained at the beach as they simply go about the process of feeding themselves. Their undying effort makes one gain perspective.
As part of the sandpiper clan, the ruddy turnstone or just turnstone, is named for either its sometimes reddish coloration or its legs – neither of which are truly red, so go figure. They are migratory so they show up in winter, which is non-breading season for them. They like to court where it’s cold; I can’t blame them for seeking a little warmth and companionship where it’s chilly. Yet because of this, they are not in their most striking coloring. Their yoke is not the dark black-on-white styling they are known for, but rather, brown like the rest of their back. Their head also becomes starkly black and white.
But even in winter, they are a very attractive bird and they’re fun to watch pecking around, trying to put themselves into the best position to, well, get some grub.