Spring Migrant Spotlight – Wilson’s Phalarope

A few Wilson’s Phalaropes have been spotted at Cheyenne Bottoms and they are right on schedule.  These shorebirds usually show up around April 12th during their  spring migration from their wintering range in the southern areas of South America.  As many as 87,000 have been estimated at one time in the Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands.


A female Wilson's Phalarope



The Wilson’s Pharalope breeds in the northern Midwest states.  Its breeding habitat has been reduced by up to 50% in some areas and has led to the decline of some populations.  Unlike many bird species where the male is the more colorful than the female, the roles are reversed in this species.  Breeding females will have a black stripe proceeding from the eye to the back, which is accompanied by crimson and rusty colors on the upper neck and wings.  Males have a more dull coloration, being mostly gray and white.  Females compete and show off for males in order for a chance to mate.  The males construct much of the nest and care for the eggs and young.

Wilson’s Phalaropes spin in a circle, up to 60 times per minute, while feeding.  While it would probably make us quite dizzy, this behavior is thought to stir up invertebrates from the muddy bottom. These food items are then condensed the swirling water, where the birds can pick them off the surface.  Come to Cheyenne Bottoms to see these interesting shorebirds for yourself!

One Comment

  • Mark Davis
    17 Apr 2013 | Permalink |

    They are absolutely delightful and worth hours of entertainment along with the ibis stilts and everything else that calls Cheyenne Bottoms home each spring.