RUDDY TURNSTONES ON ABACO: BEACH NOSHING
Some birds are named for the sounds they make (bobwhite, chuck-will’s-widow, pewee, killdeer). Some are named for their appearance (yellow-rumped warbler, painted bunting). And some are named for what they do (shearwater, sapsucker – but definitely NOT killdeer). The ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres is in the last two of these categories: it looks ruddy and it literally turns stones to get at the goodies underneath.
And they don’t just turn stones to look for food. Someone with a lot of patience has defined 6 specific methods by which a turnstone forages for food:
- Turning stones by flicking them with its beak
- Digging using its beak to flick away sand or earth (see video below)
- Routing around in piles of seaweed to expose food under it
- Surface pecking with short, shallow pecks for food just below the surface
- Probing by simply sticking its beak deep into soft sand or ground
- Hammer-probing to crack open a shell and get at the occupant
In these photos taken on a rather gloomy day on the Delphi beach, a combination of mainly digging and routing is going on. Note the sandy beak of the RUTU below, right up to the hilt.
This short video shows how effective the RUTU method is. It was fascinating to watch the team work their way through and around the piles of weed on the beach, flicking sand vigorously in their quest for sandflies or whatever. Watch the sand fly! Pity it wasn’t a sunny day – the photos might have looked a bit more cheerful…
All photos Keith Salvesen