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Merlin Bird ID

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    Wilson's Phalarope

    Silhouette ShorebirdsShorebirds

    Wilson's Phalarope

    Phalaropus tricolor
    • ORDER: Charadriiformes
    • FAMILY: Scolopacidae
    Basic Description

    Every year in late summer, migrating Wilson's Phalaropes put on an amazing show as enormous flocks amass on salty lakes of the West. There they spin round and round in the nutrient-rich waters, creating whirlpools that stir up invertebrates that will fuel their migration to South America. Females are rich peachy and gray, and are more colorful than the males. Females court and defend male mates—several per season—while males do most of the work of raising the young.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Wilson's PhalaropeRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    To find Wilson’s Phalaropes on their breeding grounds, visit small marshes and shallow wetlands and look out for these small, fairly long-legged birds. At this time of year they may be behaving like “normal” shorebirds, walking on land or in shallow water as they tend their ground nests. During migration, look for them in sometimes enormous numbers at places like Mono Lake, the Salton Sea, or the Great Salt Lake, as well as sewage ponds and smaller wetlands. Here they’ll be acting very unlike a shorebird—swimming in deeper water, where their small size, angular shape, needle-like bills, and habit of spinning in circles should help you pick them out.

    Other Names
    • Falaropo Pico Largo (Spanish)
    • Phalarope de Wilson (French)
    • Cool Facts