WatchList Species Account for Black Turnstone
(Arenaria melanocephala)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: Tom Grey

The Black Turnstone, a medium-sized shorebird with a striking black-and-white pattern most visible in flight, breeds only in Alaska, mostly within a coastal band from Point Hope south to the south-central Alaska Peninsula, generally within 1.5 miles of the coast.


Some 85% of the population occurs in the central Yukon-Kuskokwim delta. In winter it is found along the coast from southern Alaska to Baja California and both sides of the Gulf of California. It feeds on invertebrates in the rocky intertidal zone.


The estimated total population in 1992 was 95,000 birds. Christmas Bird Count data suggests its populations in the Northwest may have decreased. A catastrophic oil spill at its major breeding grounds could put a large proportion of its population at risk. Much of its wintering range is near major oil production and shipping locations where a spill could affect large numbers of the bird.