RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus fulicarius) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Red Phalarope breeding female top parts are mottled rufous and brown. Underparts are rufous, head crown is brown. Bill is yellow at base and dark grey at tip. Bill shorter than head. There is a whitish patch above and behind the eye, which is black. Nonbreeding adults are grey on top with white undersides. Head is light grey with a white bar above the eye. Bill almost all dark. There is a grey smudge below and behind the eye. Legs and feet are grey. Females larger and more colorful than males. Bird length around 20 cm (8 inches).
NAME: ‘Phalarope’ (also Latin ‘Phalaropus’) refers to ‘Coot’ and ‘foot’. Latin species name ‘fulicarius’ also means ‘coot’. Known as ‘Grey Phalarope’ outside North America.
HABITAT: Tundra in the summer, open seas outside short breeding season.
DIET: Insects, crustaceans, molluscs, small fish and zooplancton.
NESTING: Nest is on the ground below vegetation and near water. Between three and five dark green eggs are laid, incubated by the male. Chicks can feed themselves soon after hatching, but cared for by the male.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in the Arctic around the world. Winters offshore the coasts of the southern half of South America, and west coasts of South Africa and north part of Africa. Occasional winter visitor to Hawaii and New Zealand.
Distribution Map:
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, occasional sightings except in the winter.
CONSERVATION: Range widespread, population appears stable, not currently considered at risk.
NOTES: As with coots, phalaropes have lobed toes, which help them swim and walk with equal ease. Outside breeding season red phalaropes are found in flocks. This species is a ‘wading’ bird but with ‘pelagic’ habits. Another difference with other speciess is that there’s a ‘role reversal’ – it is the female that has the more vivid plumage color, initiates courtship and leaves parental care to the male.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Red-necked Phalarope, Wilson’s Phalarope
REFERENCES: (New England Seabirds) (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) (Norwegian Polar Institute) (New Zealand Birds Online)

Red Phalarope – Morro Bay, CA – May 2007 – photo by ‘Mike’ Michael L. Baird
Red phalarope, Mike’ Michael L. Baird
Red Phalarope, nonbreeding plumage – Bodega Bay, CA – Nov. 2016 – photo by ADJ82
Red phalarope, nonbreeding plumage
Bodega Bay, CA, by ADJ82