The Black Turnstone is a stocky, short-legged shorebird with a striking black-and-white pattern most visible in flight. This species usually breeds within a mile or two of the Pacific Coast, lining a shallow depression with grass on the ground, usually near water. Individuals often show strong site and mate fidelity when breeding. Courting males perform a display where they fly high and dive abruptly, causing their vibrating feathers to produce an audible sound.
This bird feeds mainly on invertebrates in the rocky intertidal zone, finding food by turning over stones and other objects. In summer, on their breeding grounds, they also feed on seeds and berries.
The Black Turnstone is a species of conservation concern due to its very small breeding distribution, which means it could be seriously affected by any single major catastrophe. In addition, much of its wintering range is near major oil production and shipping locations, where a spill could affect a large proportion of the population.