RED-NECKED PHALAROPE – (Phalaropus lobatus)
The Red-necked phalarope is a wading bird and part of the sandpiper family, but it can also swim thanks to its lobed toes. It is around 17 cm (7 in.) long. Breeding females are mainly grey on top with a rusty breast and neck, a white throat and a dark face. As opposed to most birds, males are the ones with the duller colors, and they are also smaller. The species bill is long, thin and black, and the legs are grey.
The bird’s name (both English and Latin) ‘Phalarope’ comes from ancient Greek and refers to ‘coot’ and ‘foot’. As with coots, phalaropes have lobed toes, which help them swim and walk on land with ease. ‘Lobatus’ refers to the same foot feature.
Red-necked phalaropes forage near the water surface and at the bottom of shallow water. Their diet includes fish, molluscs and crustaceans, and during migration they can add insects as well.
Red-necked phalarope males do the incubating and the females do the courtship. The nest is a scrape on the ground.
The red-necked phalarope does not breed on PEI. Its breeding range encompasses the circumpolar arctic regions including Iceland. Its wintering range covers the coasts of the southern hemisphere continents. Sightings of this bird species on PEI vary depending on the seasons – it is uncommon to fairly common in the fall while in migration, uncommon in the summer and rare in the spring.
Conservation: Although the red-necked phalarope is considered as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN, it is however listed as ‘special concern’ by COSEWIC, as of 2014. Some of the reasons mentioned for the latter classification are a population decline in some areas, climate change as well as water pollution in the species breeding areas.