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Marshbirds and Shorebirds of North Dakota

Wilson's Phalarope


WILSON'S PHALAROPE Phalaropus tricolor L9" (24cm)

The Wilson's phalarope is larger and more land-based than the other two species of phalaropes. It inhabits both freshwater and saline wetlands across North Dakota with the largest concentrations breeding on the Missouri Coteau. The female is more brightly colored than the male and defends him against approaches from other females. The nest, which is built by the male, consists of a scrape in the ground lined with fine grass. The female lays 3-4 heavily spotted brown eggs, however, the male is responsible for the incubation of the eggs and the care of the young. The Wilson's phalarope feeds by either walking along mud flats probing for insects or by spinning in circles on the water. It has also been observed feeding alongside northern shoveler ducks. The ducks stir up small aquatic insects which the phalarope quickly seizes. It has been noted that phalaropes feeding with ducks picked up prey at a rate three times faster than phalaropes feeding alone. The Wilson's phalarope feeds on the larvae of mosquitoes and crane flies, brine shrimp, and the seeds of various aquatic plants.


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