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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Shorebirds

Wilson’s Phalaropes, Phalaropus tricolor

Wilson's phalaropes wading for crustaceans.

Wilson’s Phalaropes are shorebirds that breed in prairie wetlands and marshes in North America, primarily in Canada and the northern United States, from May to August.

Wilson’s Phalaropes are commonly found in shallow wetlands, marshes, and ponds with abundant vegetation, where aquatic insects, larvae, and crustaceans are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in shallow waters, muddy edges of wetlands, and temporary pools for aquatic insects, larvae, small crustaceans, and other invertebrates. They may also feed on seeds and small aquatic plants.

Wilson’s Phalaropes exhibit unique feeding behaviors, spinning in circles on the water’s surface to create vortices that bring prey to the surface, allowing them to peck rapidly at the water.

Courtship involves females performing aerial displays and courtship flights to attract males, a reversal of typical avian roles. Females are more brightly colored and take the lead in courtship.

Nests are built by males in shallow depressions on the ground, often lined with grasses, reeds, and other vegetation. Nests are typically located in dense vegetation near water.

Egg laying occurs from May to June, with females laying 3-4 eggs. Incubation lasts about 18-20 days and is primarily done by males. Upon hatching, chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after to follow the male parent. Initial diets include small aquatic invertebrates provided by the male.

Chicks learn to forage under the male’s supervision, initially relying on him to find food. As they grow, they begin to forage independently but remain vulnerable to predation and adverse weather.

Fledging occurs at about 18-21 days, with continued guidance from the male parent. Juvenile diets gradually expand to include a wider range of aquatic invertebrates as they develop foraging skills.

Migration begins in late summer, with birds traveling along interior flyways to wintering regions in South America, particularly in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.

Wintering habitats include saline lakes, marshes, and salt flats. Foraging continues in shallow waters, with diets consisting mainly of brine shrimp, insects, and other small aquatic organisms.

Wilson’s Phalaropes leave their wintering grounds in late March to early April, returning north to breeding territories.