|Conservation status||Has lost many nesting areas owing to draining of prairie marshes, but still numerous. Protection of staging areas for migrants (such as Mono Lake, California) is important for survival.|
|Habitat||Shallow prairie lakes, fresh marshes, mudflats; in migration, also salt marshes. Nests mostly at shallow fresh-water marshes in open country. In migration, may stop at ponds, coastal marshes, sewage treatment plants, but biggest concentrations are at salty or alkaline lakes. Winters mostly on salty lakes in South America.|
Forages mostly while swimming (but does more walking on shore than other phalaropes). Picks up small items from surface of water, sometimes probes in soft mud. Sometimes stands still and catches flying insects; rarely pursues insects in the air.
4, sometimes 3. Buff, blotched with brown. Incubation is by male only, 18-27 days, usually about 23 days. Young: Downy young leave nest within a day after hatching. Male tends young and broods them while they are small, but young find all their own food. Male may try to lure predators away from nest or young by performing broken-wing act. Age of young at first flight and age at independence unknown.
Downy young leave nest within a day after hatching. Male tends young and broods them while they are small, but young find all their own food. Male may try to lure predators away from nest or young by performing broken-wing act. Age of young at first flight and age at independence unknown.
Mostly aquatic insects and crustaceans. Eats a variety of flies and their larvae, beetles, true bugs, and other insects, mainly aquatic species. Also eats shrimp, copepods, seeds of marsh plants. During autumn and winter on salty lakes, may feed mostly on brine shrimp and brine flies.
Females compete for males; one female may mate with more than one male during the season, leaving each of her mates to care for a set of eggs. In courtship, female stretches neck, puffs out neck feathers, makes chugging call. Nest site is usually on ground near water, sometimes a couple of inches above ground in marsh plants. Typical nest is shallow depression with slight lining of grass. Female may take the lead in choosing nest site, but male finishes nest.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates in flocks. Winters mostly on salty lakes in highlands of South America, and may travel there in long nonstop flight from staging areas on lakes in western North America. Spring migration in North America is mostly through Great Plains.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA soft quoit-quoit-quoit.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Wilson's Phalarope
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Wilson's Phalarope
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.