Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Wilson's phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor, breeds in Canada and the northern United States, and winters in southern and western South America. In Utah, it is common in summer and during migration, especially during southward migration in the late summer. As a breeding species in Utah, it occurs mainly in the northern part of the state, and in migration it forms enormous aggregations on the Great Salt Lake. Its breeding habitat is wetlands of interior North America, and its wintering habitat is mainly mudflats and open water of high Andean salt lakes. This species eats small aquatic invertebrates, such as brine shrimp and brine flies, as well as some terrestrial invertebrates and seeds of aquatic plants.

The nest is on damp ground within 100 meters of water. The four eggs are incubated by the male parent alone and hatch in eighteen to twenty-seven days. The nestlings are precocial, leaving the nest cup and capable of swimming within twenty-four hours of hatching; they are not fed by their parents, but feed themselves. They are tended solely by the male parent.

As in the other two species of phalaropes, the usual sex roles are reversed in this species, females being the larger and more colorful gender and males incubating the eggs and tending the young. Females also are occasionally sequentially polyandrous, mating with more than one male.


  • Colwell, M. A., and J. R. Jehl, Jr. 1994. Wilsonís phalarope. Birds of North America 83: 1Ė18.

  • Behle, W. H., E. D. Sorensen, and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. vi + 108 pp.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.