The friendly little bird of Preston beach

A Turnstone walking along the waters edge

A Turnstone walking along the water's edge. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anyone who regularly walks along the seafront, especially at Preston, will be very familiar with the sight of this little bird – even if they don’t actually know its name.

It’s a very common sight in front of the two beach front kiosks and along the sea wall.

Ordinarily, the Turnstone, completely living up to its name, can be found on rocky/gravelly shores, flipping over stones to look for its favourite food  - insects, crustacea and molluscs.

However at Preston this enterprising bird will also happily feed on chips, bread crusts and the flaky pastry of sausage rolls!

Such an unlikely diet shouldn’t have too much of a detrimental effect because historically this bird has always had rather catholic tastes; they’ve been reported feeding upon other birds’ eggs and even washed-up corpses.

It is an extremely bold bird and small flocks will often descend around people eating at the beach in the hope of a little tit-bit.

This friendliness certainly affords excellent close-up views of this curious wader.

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In winter it has a rather mottled appearance; greyish/brown back with a black patination on the face and breast, and white chin and belly.

However, in summer, it ditches this rather drab garb for something far more eye-catching – then it proudly besports its chestnut and white finery for all to see. 

The Turnstone has been found to be an extremely long-lived bird with the average age being nine and one bird almost reaching 20! 

A pair of Ruddy Turnstone birds (Arenaria Interpres) foraging by the ocean/ sea shore coast. They ar

A pair of Turnstone birds foraging by the coast. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Strangely enough, the Turnstone doesn’t actually breed with us here in the UK. The birds we see flipping stones and searching for crusts around Preston sea wall - and at certain spots around Torquay - were hatched many, many miles away on the open tundra of Western Alaska, Greenland, Norway, etc.

The vast majority of birds visit us during the harsh months of winter but there’s also a small number - in their far more visually attractive summer plumage - that visit us during the summer.

So, no matter what time of year you visit the beach at Preston, you shouldn’t be too far away from the totally terrific Turnstone!