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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Wilson's Phalarope -- Phalaropus tricolor

RANGE: Breeds from southern Yukon and northern Alberta to southern Michigan and southwestern Quebec south to south-central California, east-central Arizona, west-central New Mexico, northern Texas, eastern South Dakota, northern Illinois, northern Indiana, and northern Ohio; isolated breeding in Massachusetts. Winters primarily in South America, casually as far north as southern California and southern Texas.

STATUS: Uncommon.

HABITAT: Once inhabited natural prairies but now found mainly on highly disturbed mixed-grass prairies dotted with small glacial potholes. Also found in taiga broken by moist, grassy muskeg and many small lakes and pools, and in farming country of aspen-grove parklands. Inhabits rolling uplands as high as 6,900 feet in elevation. Outside the breeding season, mainly found on inland wetlands but sometimes on saline or alkaline depressions.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shallow water bordered by low grasses or sedges.

NEST: Nests semi-colonially in a scrapes on the ground around damp meadows with marsh grasses and sedges or rushes. Also nests by shallow sloughs, morasses fringed with short grasses or sedges, lake shores, and in hay meadows or pastures, often 50 to 100 yards from water.

FOOD: Forages on muddy shores and in shallow water; stirs up food by whirling its body around in water. Consumes larvae of mosquitoes and craneflies; predaceous diving beetles, aquatic bugs, brine shrimp, amphipods, eggs of water fleas; and seeds of aquatic plants.

REFERENCES: Bent 1927, Cramp and Simmons 1983, Hohn 1967, Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1967.

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