Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
This flock of turnstone (some 50 birds) was busy feeding on the sandhoppers and other insects teeming among the washed up kelp and other seaweed at the high tide line along the shores of Kaikoura Peninsula. Photographed in New Zealand's Autumn, these birds were in full breeding plumage and probably only days away from embarking on their long migration back to the realms of the Arctic Circle to breed on the boreal spring/summer.
This stocky blackbird-sized bird is a heavyweight-lifter among waders. Its stout body, short powerful legs and feet, and robust wedge-shaped bill allow it to turn over large shells, stones and flotsam, such as driftwood and seaweed, while foraging for sand hoppers and other crustaceans. An annual circumpolar breeder on Arctic and subarctic tundra, the ruddy turnstone is one of around 40 Arctic breeding wading bird species that migrate south and reach New Zealand. Its migration route is not fully understood. Some birds may fly south over the Pacific Ocean and some may fly along the East Asia-Australasian flyway. After spending the austral summer in New Zealand many ruddy turnstones are thought to fly directly, non-stop to the Korean Peninsula before flying on to Siberian breeding grounds.
Recorded as far south as subantarctic Campbell Island (52°S), the ruddy turnstone is the third most numerous Arctic migrant wader species that occurs in New Zealand. Breeding adults have brightly patterned black, white, rufous-brown or "tortoiseshell" plumage on the upper parts, which develops annually towards the end of the austral summer - www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz