skip to content

Phalaropus fulicarius

Red Phalarope

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae

Authors: Contreras-González, A.M., C. Rodríguez-Flores, C. Soberanes-González & M.C. Arizmendi

The Red Phalarope is known as the Grey Phalarope in Europe, suggesting that the breeding and non-breeding plumages are actually rather different. During breeding this is a largely brick red species, and in the non-breeding season it is a white and grey little seabird. It is the largest phalarope, the one that breeds farthest north in the Arctic and the one that prefers coldest water during the non-breeding season. Red Phalaropes are standard phalaropes during breeding, showing sex-role reversal. Females leave and head south before males, and both before juveniles. However, this species remains farther north for a longer period of time and they perform their entire body molt before heading south. Some remain in northern waters late in the season, into early January in California and it is unclear if these are very late migrants or in fact over-wintering birds. These northern hangers-on are young of the year. A large proportion of the New World population winters in Chilean waters, and relatively far south, making this quite an accomplished migrant heading from Arctic to southern temperate waters! Some remain in North America, largely off Mexico as well as off Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic side. Their heavier bodies and size probably makes them much more adept at handling rougher weather and winds than the more tropical wintering Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). This species seldom migrates inland, but in early winter wind storms many may show up on the immediate coast tired and hungry. This is the most strongly pelagic of the phalaropes.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute — we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more

Recommended Citation

Contreras-González, A.M., C. Rodríguez-Flores, C. Soberanes-González & M.C. Arizmendi. 2010. Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Boreal Migrant
  • Primary Habitat:Pelagic waters
  • Foraging Strata:Water (surface)
  • Foraging Behavior:Surface dip
  • Diet:Aquatic invertebrates
  • Sociality:Single-Species Flocks
  • Mating System:Polyandry
  • Nest Form:Scrape
  • Clutch: -
  • IUCN Status:Least Concern