Habitat: Phalaropes spend much of their lives at sea. They are often found where converging currents produce upwellings, where food is brought to the surface. To breed, they turn to higher elevations inland, and before migrating they gather at saline lakes before heading south. Some flocks stop over on the open waters at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy to take advantage of food stirred up by tidal action.
Summer Range: The red-necked phalarope breeds in the low Arctic and Subarctic from southern Victoria Island, central Keewatin, and southern Baffin Island south to northwestern British Columbia, southern Yukon, Mackenzie, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, southern Keewatin, northeastern Manitoba, northern Ontario, James Bay, northern Quebec, and the coast of Labrador. Non-breeding birds are found south of this breeding range.
Winter Range: During migration, the phalarope’s habitat consists mostly of open ocean and seacoast, but interior lakes and ponds are also frequented to a lesser extent. They migrate along both coasts, Pacific and Atlantic, but may also pass through interior British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and to a lesser extent, interior Manitoba. They winter at sea in both hemispheres, but mostly south of the equator.
Food: Red-necked phalaropes primarily eat insects but also eat aquatic invertebrates and seeds. When feeding, a Red-necked phalarope will often create a small whirlpool by swimming in a rapid circle. The phalarope will then reach into the center of the vortex with its bill to pluck insects and crustaceans as they rise to the surface of shallow water.
Breeding Behaviour: Females arrive on the breeding grounds before males. Once they establish territory, both sexes begin building scrapes on mounds or tussocks near the water, and the female picks one.
Nest Type and Egg Description: The red-necked phalarope nests on the borders of ponds and lakes, often far from the sea, in wet marshy areas of the tundra and taiga, or in low Arctic and subarctic regions including the northern boreal forest region.
The nest is a depression. The male adds grass, sedge, lichen, and leaves in a shallow depression concealed in sedge, ferns, grass, or shrubs. The clutch size is four eggs, and they are incubated by the male for 17-21 days. Chicks usually fledge at 20 days of age.
The Canadian Wildlife Service estimates the global population of Red-necked phalaropes to be four million birds, with 2.5 million in North America. While the population is difficult to monitor, there has been some evidence of declines in some areas, and Red-necked phalaropes have disappeared from some traditional staging areas in recent years.
Information on this page compiled by Colleen Sutton.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/