Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalaropes

The Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) is a small wader species that breeds in the Arctic and migrates south to coastal waters during the non-breeding season. Adults typically measure between 7.1 and 8.3 inches in length and weigh between 0.8 and 1.8 ounces, making them one of the smallest members of the sandpiper family.

The Red-necked Phalarope is easily distinguished from other shorebirds by its striking breeding plumage. During this time, males and females have similar gray-brown feathers on their backs and wings, with a reddish neck, a black cap, and white underparts. In non-breeding plumage, both sexes are primarily gray with white underparts.

Red-necked Phalarope in fall plumage

Red-necked Phalaropes are known for their unique feeding behavior, which involves spinning in circles on the water’s surface to create a vortex that draws in small prey such as crustaceans and plankton. This behavior is facilitated by their lobed toes, which are adapted for swimming and provide added surface area for propulsion.

During the non-breeding season, Red-necked Phalaropes can be found in coastal waters throughout much of the world, including the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. They are also found in large numbers in the Gulf of Mexico. During the breeding season, Red-necked Phalaropes can be found nesting in the Arctic tundra of North America and Eurasia.

Red-necked Phalaropes undertake some of the longest migrations of any bird species, traveling up to 15,000 miles between their breeding and non-breeding grounds. They follow circular migratory routes, moving clockwise around the Arctic during the breeding season and counterclockwise during the non-breeding season.

Despite their impressive migratory abilities, Red-necked Phalaropes face a number of threats, including habitat loss and degradation, oil spills, and climate change. Conservation efforts such as habitat protection and restoration, as well as measures to reduce carbon emissions and prevent oil spills, can help to ensure the long-term survival of this unique and fascinating species.

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