Turnstones on the pier

A Sunday afternoon spring walk along the pier was complemented by a relaxing glass of wine on the decking outside the pavilion building.  While sat there taking in the sunshine, sea air and general atmosphere I spotted an unusual winged visitor hoping amongst the tables with the pigeons.

This small friendly bird and his friends were quite at home hopping close to people and pecking at crumbs and handouts from passers by.  Returning home this little chap’s identity was confirmed as a Turnstone.


Smaller than a redshank, turnstones have a mottled appearance with brown or chestnut and black upperparts and brown and white or black and white head pattern, whilst their underparts are white and legs orange. They spend most of their time creeping and fluttering over rocks, picking out food from under stones or in this case between the deck boards of Southend Pier.

Turnstones normally frequent  rocky shores and gravel beaches. Although they don’t breed here, turnstones can be seen throughout the year as birds from northern Europe pass through in summer and again in spring, and birds from Canada and Greenland arrive in early autumn and leave in early summer. Turnstones – so-named for their habit of flipping over stones (which may even be as large as themselves!) – feed on a wide variety of prey from bird’s eggs to chips and even corpses! So best watch out and not take a nap next time you are on the pier.

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