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Red-necked Phalarope

These small water birds migrate to breed near the Arctic Ocean.

Apart from the short arctic summer when nesting takes place, the Red-necked Phalarope spends most of its life at sea, or sometimes on inland waters. As in other phalaropes, the female Red-necked Phalarope is more brightly colored than the male, and the male incubates the eggs and cares for the young.

Red-necked Phalaropes are very gregarious, and winter flocks may number in the thousands. Even during the breeding season, they are not very territorial, and nests may be placed as little as two yards apart.


Description of the Red-necked Phalarope


The Red-necked Phalarope is a small shorebird with a medium length, thin black bill. The plumage varies by gender and season, with females being brightly colored and males somewhat more subdued.

Breeding males have a white throat patch, black eye patch, reddish neck, and dark brownish-black upperparts with reddish or buffy stripes.  Length: 8 in.  Wingspan: 15 in.


Breeding females are similar in pattern to males, but are much more boldly colored.

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter birds are pale grayish above and white below, with a black eye patch on a white face.


Juveniles have dark upperparts with buffy stripes.


Red-necked Phalaropes inhabit ocean, lake, and tundra habitats.


Red-necked Phalaropes eat insects, mollusks, and crustaceans.


Red-necked Phalaropes forage by swimming, often spinning rapidly in a circle to stir up prey. On the breeding grounds, they also forage while walking.


Red-necked Phalaropes breed in Canada and Alaska. They winter at sea, primarily in the southern hemisphere. They can be seen in migration across much of the U.S., though they are rare inland except in the west. The population is difficult to monitor, but appears to be declining.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Red-necked Phalarope.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird’s wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species’ identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History.

Fun Facts

Male Red-necked Phalaropes incubate the eggs and care for the young, and females may mate with more than one male.

Unlike most other shorebirds, phalaropes have lobed toes.


The flight call is a sharp “kit”.


Similar Species

Red Phalarope
Red Phalaropes have thicker bills. Females in breeding plumage distinctive.

Wilson’s Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalaropes have longer, thinner bills.


The Red-necked Phalarope’s nest is a depression lined with grass and leaves and is placed near water.

Red-necked Phalaropes usually lay 4 eggs, buffy in color with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging;
The young hatch at about 17-21 days, and leave the nest shortly after hatching, though associating with the adult male for some time.


Bent Life History of the Red-necked Phalarope


This is the smallest, the most abundant, and the most widely distributed of the phalaropes; consequently it is the best known. Its breeding range is circumpolar, but extends much farther south than that of the red phalarope; it might be called sub-Arctic rather than Arctic. There seems to be only one homogeneous species around the world. It resembles the red phalarope in its habits, hut is more often seen on inland waters than is that species.Spring: Countless thousands of these dainty little birds migrate northward off both coasts of North America in May, but very few ever come ashore except in bad weather. While cruising off the coast, 10 or more miles from land, one is likely to see them flying about in flocks, after the manner of small sandpipers, flitting about and alighting on drifting masses of seaweed or other flotsam, or swimming lightly on the smooth surface of the sea, darting hither and thither in a most erratic way, each seemingly intent on gathering its tiny bits of food. ‘They are gentle, graceful, and charming little birds and well worth watching.There is also a heavy northward migration through the interior during May. In Saskatchewan I saw a large flock at Quill Lake on May 28, 1917; and in the Crane Lake region we recorded it as an abundant migrant; it was seen migrating, on May 29, 1905, in large flocks with sanderlings; one was seen at Hay Lake on June 15; and two were taken on June 14, 1906, at Big Stick Lake, which were in breeding condition. C. G. Harrold writes to me that it is a common and rather late migrant in Manitoba. William Rowan’s notes contain several references to the enormous flocks which pass Beaverhill Lake, Alberta, in May, mostly during the last two weeks.Dr; E. W. Nelson (1887) has given us the following attractive account of the arrival of these birds in northern Alaska:

As summer approaches on the Arctic shores and coast of Bering Sea the numberless pools, until now hidden under a snowy covering, become bordered or covered with water; the mud about their edges begins to soften, and through tile water the melting ice in the bottom looks pale green. The ducks and geese fill the air with their loud resounding cries, and the rapid wing strokes of arriving and departing flocks add a heavy bass to the chorus which greets the opening of another glad season in the wilds of the cheerless north. Amid this loud-tongued multitude suddenly appears the graceful. fairylike form of the northern phalarope. Perhaps, as the hunter sits by the border of a secluded pool still half covered with snow and ice, a pair of slight wings flit before him, ) and there, riding on the water, scarcely making a ripple, floats this charming and elegant bird. It glides hither and thither on the water, apparently drifted by its fancy, and skims about the pool like an autumn leaf wafted before the playful zephyrs on some embosomed lakelet in the forest. The delicate tints and slender fragile form, combining grace of color and outline with a peculiarly dainty elegance of motion, render this the most lovely and attractive among its handsome congeners.

The first arrivals reach St. Michnels in full plumage from May 14 to 15, and their number is steadily augmented, until, the last few days of May and 1st of June, they are on hand in full force and ready to set about the season’s cares. Every pool now has from one to several pairs of these birds gliding in restless zigzag motion aronod its border, the slender necks at times darting quickly right or left as the bright black eyes catch sight of some minute particle of food. They may be watched with pleasure for hours, and present a picture of exquisite gentleness which renders them an unfailing source of interest. The female of this bird, as is the case with the two allied species, is much more richly colored than the male and possesses all the “rights” demanded by the most radical reformers.

Courtship: The same gifted writer goes on to say:

As the season comes on when the flames of love mount high, the dull-colored male moves about the pool, apparently heedless of the surrounding fair ones. Such stoical indifference usually appears too much for the feelings of some of the fair ones to benr. A female coyly glides close to him and bows her head in pretty submissiveness, but he turns away, pecks at a bit of food and moves off; she follows and he quickens his speed, but in vain; he is her choice, and she proudly arches her neck and in mazy circles passes and repasses close before the harassed bachelor. He turns his breast first to one side, then to the other, as though to escape, but there is his gentle wooer ever pressing her suit before him. Frequently he takes flight to another part of the pool, nil to no purpose. If with affected indifference he tries to feed, she swims along side by side, almost touching him, and at intervals rises on wing above him and, poised a foot or two over his back, makes a half dozen quick, sharp wing strokes, producing a series of sharp, whistling noises in rapid succession. In the course of time it is said that water will wear the hardest rock, and it is certain that time and importunity have their full effect upon the male of this phalarope, and soon all are comfortably married, while mater familias no longer needs to use her seductive ways and charming blandishments to draw his notice.

Mrs. Audrey Gordon (1921) made some interesting observations on the courtship of the red-necked phalarope, as this species is called abroad; she writes of her experiences in the Hebrides:

Three pairs were apparently in process of courting and their behavior was most Interesting. Both cocks and hens were swimming In the water near the shore or in pools among the rushes. Suddenly a hen would raise herself in the water and flutter her wings at a great pace with her head held down and neck outstretched, all the while uttering a curious harsh call. She would then pursue the cock rapidly through the water for a few yards as though trying to attract his attention. At times the cock rose from the water and flew round about the pool where the hen was, with a low erratic flight and very slow wing beats, calling as he flew. This display only lasted a minute, when he would again alight on the water. Once after this flight the hen followed him closely and ho turned and seemed to be about to mate her, but she would not let him. I saw no more on this occasion, but on June 18 I watched two hens and one cock in a pool. One of the hens kept close to the cock and whenever the other hen came nearer she would chase her away. Both the cock and the hen were seen to stand up in the water and flutter their wings as described above. The cock seemed to pay little attention to the hens and was busy pursuing, and picking up off the water, large black flies. Then, without any warning or unusual excitement on the part of either cock or hen, the nearest one to the cock suddenly put her head low down in the water with neck outstretched and made a curious single note. The cock at once swam to her and mating took place, the hen being submerged in the water except for her beautiful red neck. The cock fluttered his wings all the time; he then went ashore Into the grasses. The second hen still kept in the neighborhood, though I imagine she must have realized she had lost her chance of a mate.

P. H. Bahr (1907) throws some light on the peculiar sexual relations of this species; he says:

On the 5th of June we watched the phenomena of polygamy, and of attempted polyandry In this species. At one end of the loch the former condition held sway, two energetic and quarrelsome females having attached themselves to one miserable-Looking male, and it was ludicrous to hehold the awe in which he held them. Once in particular he nearly ssvam between my legs in his efforts to avoid their attentions. Till our departure on the 27th, these three birds were constantly to be seen together. At the other end of the loch two males were seen continuously circling round the head of a female. I frequently observed the male performing evolutions, which I have previously described as the “marriage flight.” Zigzagging from side to side with amazing rapidity he would hover with dangling legs over the head of the female, who, circling placidly in the water, appeared to take no notice of his attentions. Then settling beside her he would peck and chase her as If endeavoring to make her take to flight. Failing in this he would dash off once more across the marsh uttering a warbling sort of song much like that of the ringed plover. Then lie would settle in a reedy spot, such as would he chosen for the nesting site, and would call vigorously, looking always In the direction of the female, as if expecting her to follo~v. I observed several pairs, behaving in this manner, and such ~vas their fervor that the males continued this performance even in the midst of one of the worst storms we experienced. Often the female would resent these attentions, and a pitched battle would ensue.

Herbert N. Brandt (Mas.) writes:

It Is very interesting to watch a struggle between two female northern phalaropes over a solitary male. They fight by the hour, not after the manner of the males ;vliich rush at each other and boldly lock in a niortal combat, but rather these females fight by dipping their wings and pecking at each other Instead of laying hold with determination. This can he likened only to a feminine hair-pulling episode. One day I watched such a combat for an hour, and there were numerous occasions on which I thought that one of the birds would succumb; but the contest soenied to be very equal, and when a bird recovered from a hard onslaught it ~vould retnrn at once and take up the wing sparring. They xvould flutter here and there over the ground, first one then the other attacking, closoly followed all the time by the shy but neutral male, the prize of the conflict. Natives informed me that they had never known of one’s being killed by the other, but that the birds would fight all day long.

Nesting: My personal experience with the nesting habits of the northern phalarope has been limited to what few nests we found in the Aleutian Islands in 1911. These birds were very scarce or entirely absent in the eastern half of the chain. lVe saw a few on Atka Island where several nests, with fresh eggs or incomplete sets, were found on June 18. On Kiska Island they were really abundant and we found them breeding about the small grassy ponds and wet meadows; fresh eggs were found on June 21. Their favorite resorts all through the western part of the chain were the wetter portions of the flat alluvial plains, near the mouths of the streams and about the marshy ponds. They were very tame everywhere and, about the ponds where they were breeding, they were very solicitous and noisy. Their simple nests were merely deep, little hollows, lined with a few bits of grass, in the little mounds or tussocks in the wet meadows around the borders of the ponds or near the small streams.

F. S. Hersey collected several sets of eggs for me near St. Michael, Alaska, in 1914 and 1915; most of the nests were in rather wet situations on the tundra, in or near marshy places, rather poorly concealed and scantily lined with grasses; others were well hidden in the clumps of scanty grass, or deeply sunken into the tundra messes and lined with bits of leaves or well lined with grasses. Other observers have described the nesting habits of this species substantially as indicated above, except that Henry H. Slater (1898), who has “encountered 45 nests with eggs in them in one day, and considerably more than a hundred altogether “, describes the nest as “a deep comfortable cup, concealed in a tuft of grass, or under a trailing branch of some dwarf Arctic shrub.”

Eggs: The northern phalarope lays four eggs almost invariably, rarely three eggs constitute a second set; as many as five and even seven eggs have been found in a nest, the largest number being the product of two females. The eggs vary in shape from subpyriform to ovate pyriform, are slightly glossy and are very fragile. The prevalent ground colors range from “pale olive buff” to “dark olive buff or ” ecru olive;” “olive buff seems to be the commonest shade. In richly colored sets the colors range from “Isabella color” or “Dresden brown” to “buckthorn brown ;” and in light buffy sets from “cream buff” to “cream color.” The size, type, and arrangement of markings vary greatly in endless patterns. Some eggs, perhaps only one in a set, are evenly covered with small spots or dots, but more often these are mixed with larger, irregular spots or blotches. Some eggs are boldly marked with large irregular blotches. The colors of the markings range from ~~sepia,~~ or ” warm sepia, and “bister”to deep blackish brown, depending on the depth of the pigment. The underlying spots, in various drab shades, are small, inconspicuous and not numerous. In my series of over 50 sets there are two abnormal eggs; one is plain bluish white and unmarked; and another is similar except for one large blotch of “sepia~~ covering the large end. The measurements of 119 eggs, in the United States National Museum, average 29 by 20 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 33 by 21, 28 by 22.5, 27 by 19, and 31 by 18.5 millimeters.

Young: The period of incubation does not seem to be definitely known, but probably it is not far from 21 days. A set of four eggs found by H. B. Conover on June 10 hatched on the evening of June 30. Incubation is performed largely. but perhaps not wholly, by the male. H. H. Slater (1898) writes:

Jerdon asserts that the females (of all the phalaropes presumably) leave the care of the nests to the males and lend a club life in separate flocks. In the present species I have not found the sex to be so much “emancipated.” I have never shot the red-necked phalarope off the nest, often as I have had a chance to do so, nor have I seen hare hatching spots on the breasts of either sex. I have no doubt that the males are the most attentive parents, but in the case of isolated nests the second bird makes its appearance before you have been there long, and I have repeatedly seen both with the young. In fact, I should have said that of all the birds I kno~v the present speces is the most connubial, and the mutual devotion of a pair is a most charming thing to see: In fact, quite touching. When not actively employed they treat themselves, and one another, to all manner of pretty and playful endearments.

Hugh S. Gladstone (1907) says:

Incubation is performed mostly, if not entirely, by the male. I flushed females off nests on two occasions, but in one case the full complement of eggs was not yet laid, and in the other I think they were only newly laid. The ground color of the eggs varied from stone to olive, and in one nest all four eggs were remarkably rotund. They take some 18 days to hatch, and only one brood is hatched in the season, though If the first sitting is destroyed the bird will lay again. The nc~;tliogs, although they can not fly for some days, are wonderfully precocious and can swim immediately. Their beautiful golden downy plumage becomes paler and paler, even after the first 24 hours.

When the nest contains eggs the female bird shows the greatest anxiety. She can be seen swimming about in the pools; or, rising without any splash, flying up and down quite close to one, uttering a low cry of “pup, 7ilip,” varied by a hoarse “chiss-iek.” This cry warns the male, which never flies off the nest, but always creeps through the grass and rushes, to some pool, near one of which the nest Is invariably placed. Here he will soon be joined by the female, and they will swim about trying to hide their anxiety by preening their feathers or pretending to feed.

Some observers have said that the young do not take to the water until they are fully fledged, but Mr. Hersey’s notes say that: “They run lightly over the beaten down masses of grass around the tundra ponds and when they know they are discovered take to the water and swim as well as their parents.”

Doctor Nelson (1887) writes:

Fresh eggs are rarely found after June 20th, and by the middle to 20th of July the young are fledged and on the wing. By the 12th to 15th of July a few of the ashy feathers of the autumnal plumage appear, and soon after old and young begin to gather in parties of from five to a hundred or more, and seek the edges of large ponds and fiats or the muddy parts of the coast and borders of tide creeks. During August and September they are found on the bays, and the Inst are seen about the last of September or first of October.

Plumages: The general color pattern of the downy young northern phalarope is similar to that of the red phalarope, but it differs in some details and the colors are lighter and more yellowish above. The colors vary from “ochraceous tawny,” on the crown and rump, to “antimony yellow,” on the rest of the upper parts, and to “Naples yellow” on the throat. The underparts are more extensrvely grayish white than in the preceeding species and there is considerable whitish between the black stripes on the back. There is more black in the crown, which is nearly surrounded by it, and the black terminates in a point on the nape. A very narrow black line runs from the bill to the eye; and there is a black auricular patch. The central black stripe on the back is broad, but the side stripes are narrow, and there are extensive black patches on thighs and wings.

I have seen no specimens showing the progress of development of the juvenal plumage. In the full juvenal plumage in August, the crown, occiput, and a space around the eye are black, the former faintly mottled with buff; the remainder of the head, throat, and under parts are white, more or less suffused with “light cinnamon drab” and gray on the sides of the neck, breast, and flanks; the feathers of the back and scapulars are brownish black, broadly edged with bright “ochraceous tawny,” which gradually fades; some of the tertials are narrowly edged with the same color; the median and inner greater wing coverts and the central tail feathers are narrowly edged with pale buff or white.

A partial molt of the body plumage in September and October produces the first winter plumage, which is like that of the winter adult, except that the juvenal wings are retained. The sexes are alike in the juvenal and all winter plumages. A partial prenuptial molt, from February to June, involving the body plumage, some of the wing coverts and scapulars and the tail, produces the first nuptial plumage, in which the sexes differ, and which is nearly, if not quite, indistinguishable from that of the adult.

Adults have a complete molt from July to October and an incomplete molt from February to June, similar to that of the young bird, producing the distinct and well-known winter and nuptial plumages.

Food: The northern phalarope obtains most of its food in the water, on the ocean or in bays or in brackish pools or in fresh-water ponds. Its characteristic and best-known method of feeding, on which many observers have commented, is to swim rapidly about in a small circle or to spin around in one spot, by alternate strokes of its lobed feet; this quick whirling action is supposed to stir up the minute forms of animal life on which it feeds and bring them within reach of its needlelike bill, which it jabs into the water two or three times during each revolution; the spinning motion is often very rapid and sometimes quite prolonged, a curious performance to watch. We saw this many times in the Aleutian Islands where small flocks were constantly seen spinning around about the old piers or feeding in the surf off the beaches where they floated buoyantly over the little waves or fluttered over the crests of the small breakers.

William Brewster (1925) describes an interesting feeding performance, at Umbagog Lake, Maine, as follows:

Alighting again, about 100 yards off, It began fluttering about in circles, now narrowly clearing the water for a yard or two, next bitting against or skittering over the surface, acting indeed, for all the world like some enfeebled butterfly or clumsy moth, alternately attracted and repelled by a forest pool lying in deep shadow. This singular performance was occasionally varied by more pronounced upward flights, extending to a height of several feet, and apparently undertaken in pursuit of flying insects, passing overhead.

Both the northern and the red phalaropes feed in large numbers at sea, often being associated together; their favorite feeding places are in the tide rips, on or around floating masses of seaweed, in the vicinity of whales or near schools of fish. George H. Mackay (1894) writes:

On May 25, 1894, about 10,000 (as carefully estimated) were observed restlag on the water around the “pigs” (rocks lying off Swampscott), occupying an area of about a mile radius. They were feeding on the red whale bait (brit) some of which was taken from them. I am informed that these birds follow the mackerel, which also feed on this brit, by their pursuit of which it is driven to the surface, and is then obtaInable by the birds. I am also told that in the nay of Fundy the phalaropes so frighten the mackerel when they come to the surface in pursuit of the brit, that the fish sink themselves. To prevent this, the fishermen carry at times quantities of liver cut up, which they throw out to attract these birds and keep them a~vay from the fish in order that they may be better able to capture the latter.

Dr. Alexander Wetmore (1925), in his report on the food of the northern phalarope, gives the results of the examination of 155 stomachs, collected in Alaska and in the United States, from May to October, inclusive; flies and the larvae of mosqultoes were the largest element, 32.8 per cent; the true bugs (lilemiptera) came next, 31.8 per cent, including water boatmen and back swimmers; beetles represented 16.5 and crustaceans 9.3 per cent; the remainder contained dragonfly nymphs, spiders, marine worms, small mollusks, a few small fishes and a few seeds. Various other insects and their larvae, many of which are injurious, are included in the food of this bird.

Behavior: In flight these phalaropes remind one of the smaller sandpipers; their flight is swift and often erratic; when flying in flocks they twist and turn and wheel back and forth like a flock of peeps, flashing white or dark gray, as breasts or backs are turned toward the observer. Mr. Brewster (1883) has seen them pitch “down from a considerable height with closed wings, much as snipe will do under similar circumstances.” Again he (1925) speaks of seeing one “rise abruptly to a height of 15 or 20 feet, and poise there for a moment, beating its wings and shaking its tail in a violent and peculiar manner.”

It is while swimming on smooth water that the northern phalaro~ seems most at home, most graceful, charming, and confiding; it is usually very tame and easily approached, but sometimes, especially when in large flocks, it seems to be afraid of a boat and keeps beyond gun range. It swims lightly as a cork, its thick coat of breast feathers giving it great buoyancy, its head is held high and carried with a graceful nodding motion. When a flock alights on the water, the individuals soon scatter and swim about rapidly and independently in zigzag lines or circles, jabbing their bills into the water in a nervous and excited manner. I have never seen them dive and doubt if they can do so, as they seem to have great difficulty in getting under water, even to bathe. They frequently alight on floating masses of seaweed, where they run about and feed with all the nervous activity of small sandpipers on a mud flat. Roland 0. Ross (1924) made some interesting observations in southern California; he writes:

The northern phalarope Is quite fearless in this region, but seldom does one find the birds so confiding as in the following Instance: Mr. Ray Francisco, the warden for the gun club on this marsh, was working in water a foot or two deep, pulling out sedges, dock, and arrowweed. The northern phalaropes took an interest in this rolled up water and drew close to dab at the surface and “whirilgig” about in their unique way. As the man kept at work they drew nearer until actually about his feet. They stayed with him until he stopped work in that section. They were observed sleeping on land and water, hill along the back under a wing. Their ablutions were absurd attempts to get a swanlike breast and neck under water, when such airy grace and buoyancy forbade any subaquatic ventures. To get the proper ducking the phalarope stretches up and drives his pretty head and breast down In the water, which effort promptly forces his tail end up whereupon like a cork he rebounds, to ride high and dry above the water with hardly a sign of moisture on the close-fitting plumage. At once he jerks up and ducks again, and again, all to llttle avail, seemingly. This up-jerk and ducking motion can be observed at a good distance, and the birds may he identified by it.”

A curious little incident, observed in the Hebrides by Misses Best and Jlaviland (1914), is thus described:

On the south side of the loch, just where we bad seen the pair of birds on our previous visit, we found a male and female In the long herbage at the water side. Perhaps we ought to reverse the usual order and say female and male, for the traditional dominance of the masculine sex Is entirely unknown in this species. Certainly this cock bird was a most henpecked little fowl. Possibly he had been captured Immediately on his arrival from the sea. At any rate, he was apparently tired out, and whenever the hen stopped, as she frequently did, to preen herself or feed, he sat down where he was, and tucking his bill under his feathers, went to sleep. Before he had dozed for more than a minute, however, the female would peck him awake, and, calling querulously, force him to follow her while she led the way through the marsh. Now and then she flew at hini and chased him about, as if losing patience. This Uttle scene was repeated three or four times, and the birds were so confiding that we were able to photograph them in the act.

Aretas A. Saunders writes to me:

I watched flocks of these birds on a small pond near the Priest Butte Lakes, in Seton County, Mont. They flew to the pond In a compact flock, scattered over the pond to feed, and evidently gathered insects from the surface of the water. When frightened by the approach of a marsh hawk the birds all rose, quickly formed the compact flock and flew away, returning later when the hawk had gone.

Voice: The vocal performances of this little phalarope are not elaborate or striking. As it rises from the water it utters a plaintive and rather faint twittering note of one, two or three syllables, which has been variously noted as tckip, or tckep, or pe-et, or pleep, or wit, wit, or quet, quet. Charles W. Townsend (1920) says that it has a variety of notes. At times it twitters like a barn swallow, at times it emits a single harsh note like that of the eave swallow. Again a gentle ee-ep is emitted, or a sharp quip. According to Witherby’s Handbook (1920), “Gladstone describes alarm note as a hoarse cltiss-ick, and Aplin speaks of a short quit, a rapid ket-ket, ket-ket. and chirra-cairra-chira at nesting places.”

Field marks: The northern is the smallest of the three phalaropes. It is the one most likely to be seen on inland ponds, except where the Wilson phalarope is common; but the latter is much larger and lighter colored, especially in fall and winter. The best field marks are small size, small head, slender neck and needlelike bill. The upper parts are blackish or dark gray (not pearly gray, as in the others) and in flight a white stripe shows conspicuously near the posterior border of the wing.

Fall: Northern pharalopes are very abundant during August and September off the coasts of New England, but they seldom come near shore, except in severe storms. The main migration route is so far off shore, south of Cape Cod, that these birds are seldom seen in the Atlantic coast south of New England.

There is a heavy fall migration throtigliout the interior, which begins quite early. We found them abundant on both migrations in Saskatchewan and Alberta. After I left, Dr. L. B. Bishop saw a flock of 100 at Many Island Lake, Alberta, on July 13, 1905, the beginning of the fall migration; they were still more abundant at Big Stick Lake, Saskatchewan, on the 19th; nearly all of the birds taken on these two dates were adult females; many males were probably still tending broods of young. A. G. Lawrence writes to me that these birds are fairly common transients in southern Manitoba, from August 15 to the end of September.

H. L. Stoddard (1923) has published the following note:

Occasionally in August and September of past years large flocks of small shore birds have been seen a long way offshore In the sand-dune region of southern Lake Michigan circling and wheeling, flashing alternately snow-white breasts and darker backs. Long-range examination with binoculars showed rather prominent whitish wing bars, but the identity of the birds was never satisfactorily determined until the afternoon of August 28, 1921, when the writer was camping at the mouth of the above-mentioned Bar Creek, in Sheboygan County, Wis. About 2 o’clock in the afternoon a light fog drifted in, and soon after large numbers of small shore birds, similar in actions and appearance to those mentioned, were sighted executing extraordinary maneuvers close to the surface of the water about ~00 yards out. They circled and recireled, turned and twisted, some of the flocks finally alighting in some smooth streaks in the water Inshore of a long line of net stakes that extended about a mile out. Fully 500 of the birds, now recognized as phalaropes, were In sight. One specimen, a female In fall plumage, was finally secured by tying the shotgun onto driftwood pieces and swimming out among them. They were In no way disturbed at my presence until a shot was fired, and I fully satisfied myself that the bulk of the flock were of the same species as the one secured, northern phalaropes.

J. A. Munro tells me that these birds are irregular fall migrants at Okanagan Landing, British Columbia, from July 28 to September 18. Along the California coast the fall migration is heavy and prolonged from the latter part of July until late October or early November, the bulk of the flight passing during August and September. Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer (1918) say:

Heavy winds on the ocean sometimes prove disastrous to the migrating hosts of northern phalaropes. Chapman records finding many bodies of this species in the tide pools of the Farallon Islands. A heavy northwest wind had been blowing along the coast for the previous two weeks, and many of the birds had resorted to inland pools of water. The emaciated condition of the birds at the Farallones was probably due to their inability to procure food while on the open ocean in migration. Forbush records numbers of these birds as being killed on the Atlantic coast by dashing against lighthouses at night. In the Cape Region of Lower California, ]irewsler found that most of the birds examined had lost one or more toes, and two or three an entire foot, and part of the tarsus also, while others showed gaping wounds on the breast. These mutilations were probably caused by tile bites of fishes.” Emerson records finding several of these birds killed by flying against the telephone wires strung across the salt ponds on the marshes ~vest of Hayward, and says that very many of this and other species of birds are killed in this manner.

Winter: Practically nothing is known about the winter home of this species in the Western Hemisphere. It is evidently south of the borders of the United States and probably south of the Equator on the open ocean. The few straggling winter records for California and South America give but a scant clue to the winter resorts of the vast numbers that pass us on migrations.

Range: Distributed over both Old and New Worlds.

Breeding range: Arctic regions of both hemispheres. In Europe and Asia the breeding range of the northern phalarope extends from Iceland, Spitsbergen, and Scandinavia, across northern Russia and Siberia to Bering Sea. South to Sakhalin Island, southern Russia (Orenburg), and the Outer Hebrides, Shetland, and Orkney Islands. In North America the breeding range extends north to Alaska (Near Islands, St. Paul Island, Nelson Island, Pastolik, St. Michael, probably Golofin Bay, the Kowak Valley, Cape Blossom, Point Hope, Point Barrow, and the Gens de Large Mountains); Mackenzie (Franklin Bay); Keewatin (Cape Eskimo); probably Baffin Island (Cumberland Sound); and Greenland (North Star Bay, Upernavik and Jacob’s Bight). East to Greenland (Disko Island); Labrador (Nain and Hopedale); and western Quebec (Fort George and Rupert House). South to western Quebec (Rupert House); northern Manitoba (York Factory and Fort Churchill) ; Mackenzie (Artillery Lake and Fort Rae); and Alaska (Nushagak and Kiska Island). West to Alaska (Kiska and Near Islands).

Winter range: The winter range of the European and Asiatic birds appears to extend south to southern Japan, the north coast of New Guinea, Ceram, the coast of Beluehistan, the east coast of Arabia, and probably points in the northern part of the Indian Ocean.

The winter range of North American breeding birds of this species is more or less imperfectly known, and they are believed to winter largely at sea. It has been reported as wintering in southern California; it has been taken or observed in Costa Rica (Desamparados) and Peru (Tumbez); there is a specimen in the museum at Buenos Aires, Argentina, that was taken in Patagonia.

Spring migration: Early dates of arrival in North America are: Florida, 175 miles west of Tampa, March 14; Bermuda Islands, March 18; South Carolina, near Chester, May 17; North Carolina, Cape Lookout, April 3; Maryland, Cumberland, May 23; New Jersey, 80 miles off Barnegat, May 6, and Cape May County, May 22; New York, Long Cave, April 2, Montauk Point, April 30, and Branchport, May 16; Connecticut, Quinnipiac Marshes, May 21; Massachusetts, near Boston, May 5, Marthas Vineyard, May 6, and Provincetown, May 21; Maine, near Milo, May 3; Quebec, Godbout, May 27; Nova Scotia, Halifax, May .12; Ohio, Youngstown, May 20; Nebraska, Lincoln, May 10; Manitoba, Shoal Lake, May 19; Saskatchewan, Indian Head, May 15, Osler, May 13, and Dinsmore, May 30; Colorado, Loveland, May 1, Denver, May 17, and Middle Park, May 20; Montana, Big Sandy, May 18, and Terry, May 21; Alberta, Beaverhill Lake, May 7; California, Monterey, April 9, Santa Barbara, April 24, Fresno, May 5, Los Banos, May 19, and Santa Cruz, May 22; Oregon, Klamath Falls, April 17, Malheur Lake, April 26, and Newport, April 30; Washington, Destruction Island Lighthouse, April 27, Shoalwater Bay, May 9, and Olympia, May 13; British Columbia, Okanagan Landing, May 18, and Mabel Lake, May 25; Yukon, Forty-mile, May 3; Alaska, Fort Kenia, May 3, Bethel, May 19, Kowak River, May 22, Igushik, May 23, St. Michael, May 14, Fort Yukon, June 1, and Point Barrow, June 11; and Greenland, North Star Bay. June 14.

Fall rnigration: Late dates of departure are: Alaska, Pribilof Islands, August 31, Port Clarence, September 6, and Okutan, September 17; British Columbia, Okanagan Landing, October 15; Washington, Clallam Bay, October 28; Oregon, Oswego, September 25; California, Fresno, October 6, Watsonville, October 20, and Monterey, October 24; Montana, Priest Butte Lakes, September 4, Columbia Falls, September 13, and Corvallis, September 20; Idaho, Salmon River Mountains, September 5; Wyoming, Fort Washakie, September 13, and Yellowstone Park, September 18; Colorado, near Denver, October 13; Manitoba, Whitewater Lake, September 9, and Shoal Lake, September 21; North Dakota, Stump Lake, September 2; Nebraska, Lincoln, October 26; Minnesota, St. Vincent, August 31; Wisconsin, near Cedar Grove, September 23; Ontario, Ottawa, October 12; Ohio, Youngstown, October 9; Newfoundland, October 11; Ungava, mouth of the Koksoak River, September 19; Maine, near Pittsfield, September 3; New Hampshire, Lonesome Lake, September 22, Lancaster. October 8, and Dublin Pond, October 13; Massachusetts, Nantucket, September 20, near Springfield, September 23, Swampscott, September 26, Harvard, October 5, and ‘Ware, October 13; Connecticut, Hartford, September 27; New York, Branchport, September 15, Athol Spring, September 24, Oneida Lake, September 21, Ithaca, September 27, Flushing, September 29, and Montauk Point, October 22; New Jersey, Stone Harbor, September 4, near Tuckerton, September 13, and 5-fathom Beach Light, October 12; Pennsylvania, Pittston, September 2, Beaver, September 26, Carlisle, October 1, and Erie, October 10; District of Columbia, Washington, August 31; West Virginia, near Parkersburg, September 26; North Carolina, Bladen County, September 23; and South Carolina, Frogmore, September 25, and Sea Islands, October 25.

Casual rccords: The northerii phalarope is apparently less common in the Mississippi Valley and the Southwest. Some records in these regions are: Michigan, Lenawee County, September 14, 1899, near Forestville, October 4, 1911, and October 28, 1911; Indiana, Fort Wayne, June 7, 1889; Illinois, Calumet Lake, September 27, 1903; Iowa, Bur1in~on, August 10, 1894, and Omaha, May 6, 1896; Missouri, near St. Louis, October 9, 1878; Kansas, May 25, 1883; New Mexico, Las Vegas, August 31, 1903; and Arizona, Walker Lake, August 19, 1889.

Egg dates: Alaska: 83 records, May 20 to July 23; 42 records, June 12 to 25. Arctic Canada: 58 records, June 16 to July 10; 29 records, June 23 to July 1. Iceland: 43 records, May 25 to July 12; 22 records, June 8 to 26. British Isles: 18 records, May 16 to July 12; 9 records, June 7 to 24.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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