Brief SummaryRead full entry
A medium-sized (7-8 inches) wader, the male Red-necked Phalarope in summer is most easily identified by its gray back, pale breast, dark gray crown, and white chin with patchy rust-colored throat patch. The female Red-necked Phalarope is somewhat more brightly colored than the male, having a solid black head, gray flanks, and a rusty throat. This plumage pattern, in which the female is more brightly-colored than the male, is unusual for birds. Winter birds of both sexes are dark gray above and white below with a black crown and conspicuous black eye-stripes. This species is unmistakable in summer; in winter, it may be separated from the related Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) and Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) by its darker body and wings. The Red-necked Phalarope breeds along arctic and sub-arctic coastlines across North America and Eurasia. In winter, this species is found far offshore, mostly in tropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Small numbers spend the winter in waters off the coast of Florida and California, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Salton Sea. Red-necked Phalaropes breed in marshy portions of coastal and inland tundra. In winter, this species is exclusively marine, being found in deep water far from shore. This species primarily eats insects during the breeding season, switching to an entirely plankton-based diet during the winter. Due to this species’ remote breeding and wintering grounds, Red-necked Phalaropes are seen by relatively few birdwatchers. In summer, this species may be seen walking in shallow water while picking food off of vegetation or the surface of the water. In winter, Red-necked Phalaropes may be seen in large flocks, swimming gull-like while picking plankton off the water’s surface. This species has been known to wait for large baleen whales to locate plankton before helping themselves to leftovers. Red-necked Phalaropes are primarily active during the day.