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Bird Field Guide

Red-Necked Phalarope

Phalaropus lobatus
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Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

Genus:  Phalaropus

Species: P. lobatus
Like other Phalaropes the male and female have reversed roles, females are brighter than males. In summer plumage the female has a dark black head with chestnut-red neck, white throat, and dark upperparts. The back of the bird has buff stripes running along the mantle.
Another Red-Necked Phalarope in moult, note the tinge of buff on the sides of the neck. The black eye patch and cap are well defined, note the very thin dark bill, which never has any yellow on it, unlike the Grey Phalarope.
The Red-Necked Phalarope is not often seen in Europe whilst in winter plumage, most often it is in breeding plumage, or a state of moult as this image shows. Note the back feathers with buff edging and the darker cap. The black eye patch curves down and along the neck, one of the best indicators of identity, and present in every stage of plumage.
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The white wing bars of the Red-Necked Phalarope are visible regardless of the season. Even in winter when the birds backs are very pale, the wing bars are still visible. These birds are in moult, not the distinctive eye patches pointing down the neck, and the buff stripes on the birds back.

In winter the Red-Necked Phalarope has grey upperparts, with some feathers having black centres and white fringes. It's underside is pure white. It has a distinctive black patch behind the eye and it's bill is dark and very thin. The shape of the eye patch helps to distinguish it from the Grey Phalarope.

Adult Male & Female (Winter)
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Red-Necked Phalarope distribution
Winter visitor
Resident bird
Passage Migrant
Summer visitor
General distribution:
Summer visitor, breeding in Northern Europe and right across the Arctic fringe. A regular but rare breeder in the UK, with around 22 pair nesting. Winters in the Southern oceans, migrating overland to get there.

Nests near grassy ponds and marshes from sea level to 1300m, often a long way from the sea. It spends the winter at sea, mostly in the tropics.

The Red-necked Phalarope is one of the tamest birds a birdwatcher is likely to encounter, almost completely indifferent to people. It is rarely seen in Europe during the winter.
Adult Male (Summer)
Adult Female (Summer)
Red-Necked Phalarope winter plumage identification
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*Dark bill (Never yellow at base like Grey Phalarope)
* key ID points

*Bill very thin

*Habitual swimmer

*Black patch behind eye curves down neck

Dark greyish upperparts, some feathers have dark centres and white fringes
Red-Necked Phalarope in flight
Small head, broad tail, strong wing bars
Red-Necked Phalarope winter plumage
Red-Necked Phalarope in moult
Red-Necked Phalarope summer plumage identification

*Bill very thin

*Habitual swimmer

*Black head

*Chestnut-red neck
*Dark bill (Never yellow at base like Grey Phalarope)
* key ID points

*Dark back with buff stripes

*White throat

Red-Necked Phalarope in flight
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Thanks to: (Modified)
Thanks to: (Modified)
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male and female Red-Necked Phalarope
Red-Necked Phalarope male
A male and female Red-Necked Phalarope, note the males duller head and neck.
The male Red-Necked Phalarope has a greyish head, and a generally duller appearance than the female. He often has white marks in front of the eye.
Red-Necked Phalarope in summer plumage.
Rare footage of a Red-Necked Phalarope in full winter plumage.