Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Origin: Northern Hemisphere (spends summers in Arctic climes, winters in the subtropics)
Sighted at: White Street Pier, Key West, FL

Happy New Year! The first animal of 2014 is a wading bird that I’d never seen before. I’m indebted to the terrific identification tool at whatbird.com for helping me peg this as the Ruddy Turnstone. The site is really quite amazing – you can add a whole manner of search criteria for your bird, like size, beak shape, leg color, habitat type, area of the world, and it’ll give you a list of potential results!

As I mentioned above, the Ruddy Turnstone spends its life across a massive part of the world. It nests in the northern reaches of Canada and Europe, near the Arctic Circle, and spends its winters as far south as – well, as Key West! You can reasonably expect to see a Turnstone anywhere in between those places if you’re there at the right time of year.

This bird was part of a pair that was looking for food on the rocks. By virtue of the fact that they travel to such widely different places, turnstones will eat an incredible variety of food, and uses all of its apparently-impressive brainpower to get at it. This includes not only foraging and scavenging, but attacking other birds to take their food, and cracking open clams and crustaceans to get at the fleshy bits.