Alaska Science Center

Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria i. interpres

High-Priority Species List

A large proportion of the population of Ruddy Turnstones that occurs in Alaska is distributed during the non-breeding season in parts of Asia having recent outbreaks of Asian H5N1.
Approximately 40,000 Ruddy Turnstones utilize sites within Alaska each year (Alaska Shorebird Group 2006-2010). Half of these individuals breed in Chukotka, while half breed at upland tundra sites within the state (Brown et al. 2001). A portion of both breeding groups migrates to locations in eastern and southeastern Asia during the non-breeding season and stops in central east Asia at sites where birds could potentially be exposed to Asian H5N1 (e.g., Yellow Sea; Bamford et al. 2006). Additionally, each fall Alaska hosts Ruddy Turnstones that breed in Chukotka but stage at sites in western Alaska en route to non-breeding locations in Asia (Thompson 1974). Thus, not only does a percentage of Alaskan-breeding Ruddy Turnstones spend the nonbreeding season at sites near outbreaks of Asian H5N1 in Asia, but a high proportion of Asian-breeding turnstones stages at sites in western Alaska. Ruddy Turnstones are thus a potential vector species for Asian H5N1 virus in North America.
No. of samples: Total of 200 from Alaska. Additional samples outside Alaska could potentially be collected from birds captured at nonbreeding sites in Hawaii.
Sampling locations: Primary sample locations include Barrow and Savoonga (St. Lawrence Island). Secondary samples may be collected at Wooley Lagoon (Seward Peninsula), Pribilof Islands, and Izembek Lagoon, with additional samples potentially collected in Hawaii.
Sampling timeframe: During May at Barrow and Savoonga and July at Barrow, focusing on municipal landfills and marine mammal boneyards. Samples from breeding birds would be obtained in June at Wooley Lagoon, an area with relatively high nesting densities of Ruddy Turnstones; additional breeding samples could likely be obtained from Barrow and Canning River. During fall staging/migration, sample locations would include the Pribilof Islands and Izembek Lagoon. Turnstones that nest in western Alaska spend the nonbreeding season in the Hawaiian Islands (P. Bruner, unpubl.), often forming large flocks. Additional samples could potentially be obtained at sites on Oahu.
Sample demographics: Adults will be sampled during migration in the spring and at breeding sites. Juveniles occur fairly regularly but in sparse numbers in autumn at coastal sites in western Alaska. Methods of capture: The sample goal of 200 can most easily be achieved through live trapping (e.g., baited walk-in trap, noose mats, mistnets) and/or collection of fecal samples from birds at sites during spring and fall migration. Smaller numbers of samples could be obtained from lethal capture (~20-40 birds).
Other targeted species: At the proposed primary sampling sites it will be possible to sample small to moderate numbers of Pacific Golden-Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Long-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, and Rock Sandpipers.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Bird Management (May-June, Barrow)
Contact: Richard Lanctot

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (July-September, Izembek Lagoon)
Contact: Kristine Sowl

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (July, Pribilof Islands)
Contact: Jeff Williams

U.S. Geological Survey
Alaska Science Center - Shorebird Project
Contact: Robert Gill

U.S. Department of Agriculture (July, Pribilof Islands)
Contact: David Sinnett
Alaska Shorebird Group. 2006-2010. A Conservation Plan for Alaska Shorebirds. Unpublished report, Alaska Shorebird Group. Available through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, Anchorage, Alaska. XX pp.

Bamford, M., D. Watkins, W. Bancroft, and G. Tischler. 2006. Migratory shorebirds of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway: population estimates and important sites. Wetlands International Oceania. (In press).

Brown, S., C. Hickey, B. Harrington, and R. Gill, eds. 2001. The U. S. Shorebird Conservation Plan, 2nd ed. Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. Manomet, MA.

Thompson, M. C. 1974. Migratory patterns of ruddy turnstones in the central Pacific region. Living Bird 12:5-23.

Distribution map of Ruddy Turnstone

Ranking Score: 13.0

Asian H5N1 ranking criteria for Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria i. interpres.

Total of partial
contact with Asia1
Contact with
known "hot spot"2
Habitat used in
Pop. in Alaska4
Can samples be
Portion of w. Alaska nesting to s.e. & e. Asia; population nesting in Chukotka moves to w. Alaska in autumn before returning to s.e. & e. Asia
On migration stops in c. & e. Asia (Yellow Sea, Korea, Japan)
Breeds upland tundra; migration/nonbreeding coastal (rocky intertidal, sand beaches and mudflats)
>35% of North American pop. (~20,000 birds) in Alaska, plus historically large numbers visit (>20,000 on Pribilof Is. From Chukotka)
Unless postbreeding concentrations found (e.g., Pribilof Is) could be difficult to meet target sample
Image of Ruddy Turnstone, photo by C. Ely