My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus

The Red-necked Phalarope is a small wader. This phalarope breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory, and, unusually for a wader, winters at sea on tropical oceans.

Red-necked Phalarope is about 18 cm (7 in) in length, with lobed toes and a straight, fine bill. The breeding female is predominantly dark grey above, with a chestnut neck and upper breast, black face and white throat. The breeding male is a duller version of the female. They have lobed toes to assist with their swimming. Young birds are grey and brown above, with buff underparts and a black patch through the eye. In winter, the plumage is essentially grey above and white below, but the black eyepatch is always present. They have a sharp call described as a whit or twit.

The typical avian sex roles are reversed in the three phalarope species. Females are larger and more brightly colored than males. The females pursue and fight over males, and will defend their mate from other females until the clutch is complete and the male begins incubation. The males perform all incubation and chick-rearing activities, while the females may attempt to find another mate. If a male loses his eggs to predation, he may re-pair with his original mate or a new female to try again. Once it becomes too late in the breeding season to start new nests, females begin their southward migration, leaving the males to incubate the eggs and look after the young. Clutch size is usually 4, but can be fewer. The young mainly feed themselves and are able to fly within 20 days of hatch.

When feeding, a Red-necked Phalarope will often swim in a small, rapid circle, forming a small whirlpool. This behavior is thought to aid feeding by raising food from the bottom of shallow water. The bird will reach into the center of the vortex with its bill, plucking small insects or crustaceans caught up therein. On the open ocean, they are often found where converging currents produce upwelling. During migration, some flocks stop over on the open waters at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy to take advantage of food stirred up by tidal action.

Almost all of the non-breeding season is spent in open water. As this species rarely comes into contact with humans, it can be unusually tame.

On to my photos:

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding, taking off

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding, taking off

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding, in flight

Red-necked phalarope, non-breeding, in flight

This is number 139 in my photo life list, only 211 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

wordpress_logo_post_whenever2

Advertisements

24 responses

  1. The fact that the females are larger and more brightly colored than the males must make this bird an oddity in the bird world. It looks like you were able to get close to them.

    December 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    • That’s more common than you think when it comes to birds of the high Arctic, there are a few species where that’s the case. In reading and hearing about some of the species that nest that far north, for many species, the females are only there long enough to lay eggs, then they fly south again, leaving the males to incubate the eggs and raise the young.

      The Beast and some cropping make it look as if I was closer than I really was. After seeing m brother’s photos using an extender behind his Beast, I can’t wait to give it a try with mine, then you’ll see some real close ups!

      December 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm

  2. What a beautiful bird….great pics

    December 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    • Thank you, all I did was press the shutter release. I’d like to catch them next spring in full breeding colors.

      December 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      • I’d like to see those pics too

        December 31, 2013 at 3:06 pm

  3. What interesting information! Great photos, too. These are really cute birds!

    December 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    • Thank you, I’m finding the diversity of birds that pass through Michigan twice a year quite amazing!

      December 31, 2013 at 2:27 pm

  4. Great bird shots indeed. You’ll be outshining Phil pretty soon with your extender on the Beast! 🙂

    December 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    • Thanks, I don’t know who Phil is, but I’m glad that you liked the photos.

      January 1, 2014 at 2:17 am

      • Ooops, I thought you followed him at his swamp in south (or is it north?) Carolina… http://phillanoue.com/

        January 1, 2014 at 2:27 am

      • No, I don’t follow him in his swamp, too many bugs down there. 😉

        January 1, 2014 at 8:28 am

      • 😀

        January 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      • His stuff is really great, but only you get the amazing variety of birds. 🙂

        January 2, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      • Thanks, but I’m a slacker compared to you and your Big Year of 261 species.

        January 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

  5. I hope that your bird catalog continues to go from strength to strength in 2014.

    December 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    • Thanks Tom, I’ll be trying.

      January 1, 2014 at 2:18 am

  6. Here’s to adding many new birds to the list in 2014!!!

    January 1, 2014 at 4:25 am

    • Thank you Lori!

      January 1, 2014 at 8:29 am

  7. Holy wow ! What a fantastic photo for the lead in. I need to get caught up..promise I’ll be back later this week. Hugs and Happy New year !!

    January 1, 2014 at 9:07 am

    • Thanks, not a problem, my blog will be here when you get around to it. 😉

      January 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm

  8. Was very interesting for me to read the information about this bird. The males seems to be so occupied all the time, this is strange for the birds I know (in my area).
    Happy New Year!

    January 2, 2014 at 5:39 am

    • Thanks Cornel, wishing you a very Happy New Year as well!

      January 2, 2014 at 9:31 am

  9. nice photography! I have never see the Red-necked phalarope before, we don’t have them here on the east coast.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!! 😉

    January 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    • Thank you! I would bet that there are flocks of the phalaropes migrating up and down the east coast, they only stick around here for a few days, so I was lucky to get the photos that I did.

      January 3, 2014 at 1:00 am