Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)

Red phalaropes are also known as whale-birds due to the fact that they often feed on the same concentrations of zooplankton as baleen whales. They are also called sea-geese in reference to the twittering sound of their call.

Description

In its summer plumage, the red phalarope has all red underparts and a yellow bill with a dark tip. In its winter plumage, its underparts are mostly white and its wings have a white stripe. Its back is grey is both plumages. It is distinguished from the red-necked phalarope by its flatter and thicker bill. Unlike most other birds, the female red phalarope is larger and more colourful than the male.

Distribution

The red phalarope occurs much farther north than the red-necked phalarope. Some individuals breed on the High Arctic islands of Canada, as well as in northern Greenland. Their migration is mostly over water, unlike the red-necked phalarope, and they usually winter on the Atlantic coasts of Africa or South America.

Ecology

This species nests on the margins of freshwater lakes and ponds, laying eggs in a small cup of grass. The male incubates the eggs for less than 20 days, a shorter time than that of the red-necked phalarope, most likely because of the shorter summer in its more northern range. The young are small and fluffy, and their down is covered with black and white patterns. The females leave the breeding ground as soon as the males have begun incubating, but later meet up with the males before making their migratory journey.