Phalaropus Tricolor – Wilson’s Phalarope

Phalaropus Tricolor - Wilson's Phalarope found in the US

Wilson’s phalarope is a tiny wader (Phalaropus tricolor). This bird, the largest of the phalaropes, breeds in western Canada and the western United States’ grasslands. It is migratory, spending the winter in interior salt lakes near Argentina’s Andes.

Quick Overview: Phalaropus Tricolor – Wilson’s Phalarope
Body size: Around 8-9 in (20-23 cm) and a weight of 110 g (3.88 oz)
Main colors: Black, Gray, Brown, White, Red
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: March, April, May, September, October, November
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Wilson’s Phalarope Description

It is a delicate shorebird with lobed toes and a fine black bill that is straight. Above, the breeding female is mostly gray and brown, with white underparts, a reddish neck, and reddish flank patches. The breeding male is a more drab version of the female, with a brown back and diminished or nonexistent reddish markings.

Phalaropus Tricolor - Wilson's Phalarope found in the US
Phalaropus Tricolor – Wilson’s Phalarope. Photo by: Larry Lamsa


These birds have a length of 8-9 in (20-23 cm) and a weight of 110 g (3.88 oz). Their wings could range from 14-16 in (36-41 cm).


Wilson’s phalaropes are opportunistic feeders, preferring crustaceans, aquatic insects, and aquatic larvae as prey.


The grassy margins of shallow lakes, marshes, reservoirs, and inland saltwater lakes are preferred habitats. During the winter, this species is found in inland saline lakes in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.


The phalaropes of Wilson are polyandrous. The female attracts the male through aggressive conduct and engages in physical altercations with other females on occasion. Male Wilson’s phalaropes are unique in that they are entirely responsible for protecting and caring for their young until they hatch.

Phalaropus Tricolor Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Genus: Phalaropus
  • Species: Phalaropus tricolor

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds are during the Spring season (March-May) and during the Autumn season (September – November).

Distribution of the Wilson’s Phalarope in the USA

Breeds in marshes throughout western North America’s interior and winters in South America.

The Wilson’s Phalarope can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Phalaropus Tricolor – Wilson’s Phalarope

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