Three Species of Phalaropes Living in the World Today

Red-necked pharalope.
Red-necked pharalope.

A phalarope is a bird of the family Scolopacidae and genus Phalaropus. The birds are known for their unusually halophilic nature and are often observed near salt lakes in their range. Pharalopes also exhibit a unique feeding behavior, as they will perform rapid, circular motions in the water, stirring up a temporary whirlpool. This movement helps to raise food to the top of the shallow waterbody. The bird then uses its narrow beak to pluck insects and crustaceans from the center of the vortex. Another unique characteristic of these birds is observed in sexual dimorphism and parenting behavior. Unlike most other birds, female phalarope birds are brightly colored than males, and pursue males and even fight each other for a common mate. Females also engage in polyandry and leave the males to incubate the eggs. Three extant species of phalaropes are described below.

3. Wilson's Phalarope

The Phalaropus tricolor is a migratory shorebird that breeds in the prairies of western United States and Canada. The birds winter in the inland salt lakes of the Argentinian Andes and stop-over at various locations on their migratory route for feeding. Rare vagrants are observed in the western part of Europe. Females of this species have a brown and gray upperpart and white underpart. There are reddish patches on the flank and the neck is also reddish in color. The males are duller than the females and the reddish patches are subdued or absent. The bill of the bird is straight, narrow, and black. The birds are the largest among the three species of phalarope and have an average length of about 23 cm. The birds are halophilic in nature and are found in great numbers near salt lakes.

2. Red-necked Phalarope

The Phalaropus lobatus is a small (about 18 cm) bird which breeds in the Arctic regions of Eurasia and North America and winters in the tropical islands. The birds have lobed feet that help in swimming, and have a fine, straight, black bill. The females have a dark gray plumage, black face, and white colored throat. Their neck and upper breast are chestnut colored. The bird is easily distinguished from the similar looking Wilson's phalarope by the presence of a white wing stripe. The coloring of males is duller than the female red-necked phalarope.

1. Red Phalarope

The wading bird Phalaropus fulicarius is one of the three species of phalaropes. It lives in the Arctic regions of Eurasia and North America but winters in the tropical oceans. The females are brighter in color than the males and have brown and black upperparts and red underparts. The female also has white patches on the cheek. The bill is narrow and straight. The bill color is yellow with a black tip. The birds have lobed toes. The males of this species are a duller version of the female.


More in Environment