Ruddy Turnstones Chicks Grow Up Fast

Small flock of Ruddy TurnstonesSmall flock of Ruddy Turnstones- Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

Some Ruddy Turnstones migrate through Utah in the spring starting the last week of April until around the end of May and can be seen when they feed to refuel for the rest of their journey to the high Arctic to breed.  They are beautiful, colorful shorebirds with calico patterns in breeding plumage. When I lived in Florida I photographed them during the fall, winter and early spring along the Gulf coast.

One of the amazing things about these shorebirds is just how quickly the chicks develop after hatching and how soon they migrate from their breeding grounds.

Ruddy Turnstone chicks leave their nests within a day of the last egg of the brood hatching. They have downy feathers at that point and they feed themselves while the adults watch over them.

Ruddy Turnstone profileRuddy Turnstone profile – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

The female Ruddy Turnstones usually leave the chicks with the male at about 10 to 14 days. The males then look after the chicks until they fledge.

Ruddy Turnstone chicks fledge (begin to fly) at only 19 to 21 days of age at which point the male turnstones leave their young and head towards their winter grounds. Imagine if human babies developed that quickly!

What is really fascinating to me is that within two days of fledging Ruddy Turnstone chicks embark on their first migration to their wintering grounds. That is when the young turnstones are just about three weeks of age and they may fly as far as 6500 miles from their breeding grounds to their nonbreeding grounds without an adult to guide them.

No wonder the American Birding Association picked them for the 2017 ABA Bird of the Year!

Birds just flat out captivate me.

Life is good.


P.S, I did get out to photograph yesterday even though the skies were not clear, I came home with a few images but nothing to get too excited about but at least I was out with the birds in nature for a bit.


  1. Mia McPherson April 30, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Thank you all for your thoughtful and informative comments.

  2. Utahbooklover April 28, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    A beautiful bird and I especially like the first image. Thanks for the images and the info.

  3. Elephants Child April 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    They do grow up fast. They need to.
    And yes, birds ARE captivating. And intriguing. And fascinating.

  4. Jane Chesebrough April 28, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Lovely, such personality!

  5. Jorge H. Oliveira April 28, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for today’s lesson.
    I photographed one last Tuesday and it’s good to know the difference between breeding and nonbreeding plumage.
    Here in Portugal we name this bird “Rola do mar”.

    • Utahbooklover April 28, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks Jorge. I went to Portuguese online translator to find: “It rolls of the sea” which also rolls off tongue.

  6. Patty Chadwick April 28, 2017 at 9:09 am

    What I like best about these cute, pretty birds is their name…I love saying it….it just rolls off the tongue!!!

  7. April Olson April 28, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Beautiful bird, I hope to see one in Utah.

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