Wilson’s Phalarope

Wilsons Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalaropes are eye-catching birds and the largest of the phalaropes, you will see them spinning around kicking up food. They have small heads, long necks, thin, straight black bills, and long black legs.

Females are more colorful and larger than males and they leave the rearing of young to them.

Breeding females have gray crowns, white faces, peach or light cinnamon necks, blue-gray upperparts, white underparts, and reddish flank patches and a black stripe on their face and neck.

Breeding male Wilson’s Phalaropes are less colorful than females. They do not have the neck stripe and the reddish flank patches.. 

Nonbreeding adults are mostly gray on their crowns and upperparts. Their underparts are white. Juveniles have brown caps, scaled pattern gray, brown, and rufous upperparts, and white underparts.

  • Phalaropus tricolor
  • Length: 8.7 – 9.4 in (22  – 24 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3 – 3.9 oz (38 – 110 g)
  • Wingspan: 15.3 – 16.9 in (39 – 43 m)


Wilson’s Phalaropes breed mainly in western US and Canada before migrating to southern South America.

Habitat and Diet

You can find Wilson’s Phalaropes in salt marshes during winter. During the breeding season, they breed in wetlands and shrubby areas. 

Though Wilson’s Phalaropes are shorebirds, they spin round and round in the water creating a whirlpool that brings midges, shrimp, and seeds to the surface.

While on the shore, they pick off prey from the surface or probe the soft mud.

Wilson’s Phalarope call:


Nests of Wilson’s Phalaropes are usually on the ground in freshwater marshes. The female selects the site and lays her eggs in a simple scrape on the ground. She lays three to four eggs and then migrates south. 

The male stays and reinforces the nest, and incubates the eggs for about three to four weeks. The young can find their own food within a day of hatching.

Fun fact:

With Wilson’s Phalaropes, the roles of females are reversed. They are more colorful and larger than males, take the lead in courtship, don’t incubate their eggs and they leave the rearing of their young to the male.