The Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) is a small shorebird that breeds in the prairies of North America and migrates south to the coasts of South America during the winter. Adults measure around 7-8 inches (18-20 cm) in length and weigh around 1.5-2.5 ounces (42-70 grams), with females being slightly larger than males.
Wilson’s Phalaropes have several distinguishing field marks that make them easy to identify. During breeding season, females have a dark cap on their head, a white neck, and a reddish-brown body with black streaks. Males are duller in color with a grayish-brown back and white underparts. In non-breeding plumage, both males and females have a white face and neck with a grayish-brown body.
These birds have an interesting feeding behavior in which they swim in circles to create a vortex that brings small aquatic invertebrates to the surface, which they then feed on. This unique behavior, along with their distinctive markings, makes them a popular bird to observe for birdwatchers.
Wilson’s Phalaropes are also known for their impressive migration. They breed in the northern Great Plains of North America and then fly non-stop over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) to their wintering grounds in the coastal regions of South America. This long-distance migration is one of the longest for any bird of its size.
Conservation efforts are in place to protect this species due to loss of habitat from agriculture, energy development, and climate change. By preserving the breeding grounds of Wilson’s Phalaropes and their wintering grounds in South America, we can ensure the survival of these unique and fascinating birds for future generations to enjoy.