Fun Phalarope Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Nov 18, 2022 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Aug 17, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Here are some fun facts about the Phalarope!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.3 Min

Shorebirds with the open ocean as their home, phalaropes rely mostly on aquatic invertebrates for food. Belonging to order Charadriiformes, the English and genus names of these birds come through the French word phalarope and the scientific Latin word Phalaropus from Ancient Greek phalaris, coot, and pous, foot. Coots and phalaropes both have lobed toes. Their genus contains three speciesWilson's phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), red necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), and red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). Known for their dabbler behavior, they put on an amazing show as enormous flocks during migration. The breeding season lasts from the month of May through August and they clutch four to eight eggs per season.

Phalarope Interesting Facts

What kind of Animal is a Phalarope?

A phalarope is a kind of bird.

What class of animal does a Phalarope belong to?

Phalaropes fall into the class of Aves.

How many Phalaropes are there in the world?

The exact number of phalaropes has not been recorded yet.

Where does a Phalarope live?

The red phalarope and the northern phalarope breed around the arctic circle and spend their winters on the tropical oceans.  They are also found on the west coast of Africa and the Pacific. The third species of phalarope is Wilson's Phalarope. They breed in western North America and central Alaska.

What is a Phalarope's habitat?

The red necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) can be found around water bodies like lakes and marshes in the Arctic tundra zone. Then they move on to spending their winters at sea or a pond

Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) breed in wetlands, agricultural fields, open wetlands, marshes, and roadside ditches. During migration, most birds stop by wetlands, in North America and coastal marshes and sewage ponds. During winter migration takes place and they move on to South America, mainly on high lakes in the Andes. During the migration period, great numbers of these birds form groups on salty lakes and coastal marshes of the West.

Red Phalaropes or grey phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) breed across the Arctic and winter at sea in the open ocean, along the west coast of Africa from Morocco to Namibia.

Who do Phalaropes live with?

Phalaropes can be found living in flocks.

How long does a Phalarope live?

The average lifespan of a Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) is 10 years. These species have a longer lifespan than many of the other birds.

How do they reproduce?

Female Phalarope is polyandrous which means they mate with another male or many males. On the other hand male phalarope only mates once a year. The breeding season lasts from the month of May through August. When a female attracts the attention of a male, it goes into an upright position and indicates courtship sticks out their neck feathers. The sex roles are reversed in Pharalopes. This is also called phalarope dimorphism. Phalarope male usually takes care of the offspring and females go out in search of other males to mate with. If it is too late for nesting, the females leave the offspring with the males and leave for migration. If a male loses an offspring, it usually goes back to its original mate or a new female. Phalaropes clutch four to eight eggs per season. The female chooses a nesting site and then departs to seek another male to mate with. The male then sets up the nest for the eggs. Males are responsible to incubate the eggs. The incubation period lasts for 17-29 days.Once the Incubation period ends, the offspring hatches with fully feathered skin. They can leave their nest with one day of hatching.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status for all three species of Phalarope is Least Concern.

Phalarope Fun Facts

What do Phalaropes look like?

Red necked breeding birds have a white throat. They also have a reddish patch on their neck. Their body is grey with buffy markings on wings. The top part of non breeding birds is grey and the lower part is white. They have a streaky back and a black ear patch.

Red Phalaropefemales birds have a bright reddish cinnamon body. When compared to them, males are duller orange and red. White cheek, black crown, and yellow bill are common in breeders or non breeding birds that have a smooth gray top body. Their bottom body part is white. They also have a black eye patch.

The red or grey phalaropes are grayish in color and have a narrow bill. In the Arctic region, these birds are blue gray with a reddish color on the neck region. During winters they turn grey on the back with white lower parts with black patches across the eye region.

Birds of Wilson's Phalarope species are grayish in color with cinnamon or rusty highlights on, especially in the neck area. These birds do not have a marine life history but swim most of the year on saline lakes in the interior of North and South America.

Red Necked Phalarope

How cute are they?

Phalaropes are considered very cute because they have cute beaks and they are very colorful.

How do they communicate?

Their communication channel is mainly acoustic. Male and female Wilson's phalaropes make brief nasal calls to each other to keep in touch during courtship. Over long distances, females will make a deep call to communicate. That said, when this species is in close range to each other they will make a soft purring call.

During Phalarope migration, delicate gurgling is used. In a nutshell, most calls are geared toward short range communication as they tend to like the company of their community.

How big is a Phalarope?

The Phalarope is 7.1-9.4 in (18-24 cm) in size which is thrice as big as the Hackberry Emperor.

How fast can a Phalarope move?

Pharalopes can move up to the speed of 15 mph (24.1 kph).

How much does a Phalarope weigh?

Phalaropes of the family Scolopacidae weigh around  0.8-1.7 oz (20-48 g) on average.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no sex specific names of phalaropes. The only difference there is in their color and sex roles.

What would you call a baby Phalarope?

A baby phalarope is called a chick.

What do they eat?

They eat a variety of invertebrates such as midges, shrimps, and larvae. They also eat fish eggs, amphipods, and various other larvae.

Are they dangerous?

No, phalaropes are not dangerous to human beings.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these birds are migratory in nature and would not make good pets.

Did you know...

Although they are committed to an aquatic lifestyle, phalarope birds do not lay eggs on the water. They only nest on grounds near pools or ponds.

Female phalaropes get into fierce fights over the males they want to mate with. Then after they’ve laid their eggs, they take no part in raising the young and often seek out another mate and lay another clutch.

Although she engages in the mating process, it is always the female who chooses a site to lay eggs. The site selected is generally around the edge of a wetland or in surrounding upland vegetation. She lays her eggs in nothing more than a scrape on the ground. Afterward, the male tidies the scrape and arranges the surrounding vegetation to hide the nest.

The size of Wilson's phalarope is the highest, followed by Red Phalarope, and then, at last, comes the red necked phalarope which has the smallest average size among all three.

Clutches of exactly four eggs are laid by Wilson's phalarope.

Types of Phalarope

There are three types of Phalarope, they are the Wilson's Phalarope, the red necked Phalarope, and the Red Phalarope.

When it comes to Phalarope identification, regardless of the species, females are more brightly colored than males.

Occasionally found with Red Phalarope, red necked Phalarope breeding ground is arctic tundra. When it comes to size, these birds are larger than a least sandpiper and slightly smaller than a red Phalarope.

They feed by spinning frantically in circles. This helps bring invertebrates to the surface as food. During fall migration, they can gather in large numbers.

Red phalarope, is larger than a red necked Phalarope and smaller than a Red Knot.

They swim on the water to pick invertebrates. They often mix with red necked Phalarope and also breeds on Arctic Tundra.

Wilson's Phalarope does not have a marine life history but swims most of the year on saline lakes in the interior of North and South America.

Their size is larger than that of a least sandpiper and smaller than a Killdeer. They regularly swim in deep water. Like their counterparts, they often spin in circles to bring small food items within reach.

Their habitat only entails lakes and ponds, with the breeding ground in the marshes of the Great Plains and intermountain West. They spend winters in South America. On migration, great numbers collect on salty lakes and coastal marshes of the West.

Why do Phalaropes spin?

Phalarope spinning helps to create an upward jet like pressure which helps it draw out tiny insects which normally are out of reach.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Griffon vulture facts and great frigatebird facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Phalarope coloring pages.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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