Mobile bird identification
Bird Field Guide

Grey Phalarope

  Phalaropus fulicarius
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Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

Genus:  Phalaropus

Species: P. fulicarius
Like other Phalaropes the male and female have reversed roles, females are brighter than males. The male bird has less solid black on his head, the crown being more streaked. The bill is yellow with a black tip. The red underside of the male is usually duller than the female, and sometimes has extensive white.
Grey Phalarope in winter plumage.
Note the extensive buff and black feathers; Back markings can vary considerably from bird to bird.
Note the dark cap which can vary from bird to bird, some birds having no cap at all. The dark patch behind the eye is always present in winter plumage, and is known as the Phalarope mark.
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The female Grey Phalarope has a brighter chestnut-red underside than the male, and her cap and face markings a more solid, deeper black.

In winter the Grey Phalarope has a pearl-grey back, white underparts and a small patch of black behind the eye. The bill is small and black and sometimes has a yellow base. The shape of the eye patch helps to distinguish it from Red-Necked Phalarope.

Adult Male & Female (Winter)
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Winter visitor
Resident bird
Passage Migrant
Summer visitor
General distribution:
A rare breeding bird in Iceland. Also breeds in other Northern Arctic areas including Canada and Russia. A very rare passage migrant to the UK and coastal areas of Europe. Winters around African and South American coasts.
Nests on marshy Arctic tundra and occasionally near muddy pools, but always near the sea. Otherwise a pelagic bird, rarely ever seen inland. Can turn up in unexpected coastal areas during autumn storms.
The Grey Phalarope male and female have reversed roles. Males have duller plumage than females, and take on the task of incubation, and rearing of the chicks. A bird of the open ocean, it is rarely seen near land, except when nesting, or when storms push it shoreward.
Grey Phalarope distribution and migration route
Grey Phalarope in winter plumage identification
Grey Phalarope in flight
*Dark bill sometimes yellow at base
* key ID points

*Bill thick for Phalaropus

*Habitual swimmer

*Squareish black patch behind eye

Pearl-grey back
Small head, broad tail, strong wing bars
Grey Phalarope in winter plumage
Grey Phalarope in winter plumage mottled back
Grey Phalarope male in summer plumage
Adult Male (Summer)

*Black streaked cap

*Black back feathers, edged bright buff

Chestnut-red underside
*Yellow bill, black tip
*White flash around eye
* key ID points
Grey Phalarope female in summer plumage
Adult Female (Summer)
Grey Phalarope in summer plumage, note video states Red Phalarope, another name for the Grey.
*Habitual swimmer

*Variable black cap

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