Black Turnstone Feeding Behavior

by Bryce W. Robinson


It is a great experience to see behaviors that obviously gave rise to a creature’s name. The Black Turnstone – Arenaria melanocephala is black, and feeds in the most interesting way as its name implies. It frequents rocky shorelines and turns stones to find food. I was lucky enough to find two birds staging along a tidal pool in western Alaska. The birds were living up to their namesake, turning stones vigorously in search of food.

Another aspect of observation that gives me satisfaction is recognizing a behaviors role in shaping morphology. The turnstone has a unique bill shape, adapted to gain leverage and flip stones in an effortless manner. What I’d like to investigate is the difference in muscle morphology in the neck and back between other close relatives that do not engage in this behavior.

“Behavior birding” holds a treasure trove of opportunities to ask questions and learn great lessons that further understanding of the bird world.