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"An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and DigIB "Bird of the Week" , The Red-Necked Phalarope Juvenile!

Aug 20, 2019 11:02PM ● By Paul Spear

Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents"An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and "Bird of the Week" a New Species. The Red-Necked Phalarope Juvenile!

Note: this is the first new Species caught on film in over a year at the estuary.

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Red-necked Phalarope. Phalaropes, a sandpiper, reverse the 

usual sex roles in birds: Females are larger and more colorful than males; females take the lead in courtship, and males are left to incubate the eggs and care for the young. Red-necked Phalaropes nest around arctic tundra pools and winter at sea. During migration they pause on shallow ponds in the west, where they spin in circles, picking at the water's surface. However, most apparently migrate offshore, especially in the east. Despite their small size and delicate shape, they seem perfectly at home on the open ocean.

 Population of Red-necked Phalaropes is difficult to monitor. There is some evidence of recent declines in certain areas, such as off the coast of New England. Most alarming is the disappearance of former concentrations in the western Bay of Fundy. Fall gatherings there had been estimated as high as 3 million in the 1970s, but numbers began to drop sharply in the 1980s and the concentrations have largely disappeared.

Habitat is in the ocean, bays, lakes, ponds,and tundra in summer. At sea, they often concentrate over upwellings or tide rips, and sometimes around the edges of kelp beds. Inland, they often stop on ponds or lakes with abundant small creatures to eat; often favoring sewage ponds, where insects are numerous. They breed in tundra regions, mainly on marshy edges of ponds and lakes.

Unlike any other sandpipers, phalaropes forage mostly while swimming, by picking items from 

 water's surface or just below it. Often they spin in circles on shallow water, probably to stir things up and bring food closer to surface. In general, they feed very rapidly on very small prey, such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. Diet varies with season and habitat. On breeding grounds and on fresh waters in migration, they eat mostly insects, including adults and larvae of flies, beetles, and caddisflies. During stopovers on alkaline lakes, may eat brine shrimp. Winter diet on the ocean is poorly known, but probably includes small crustaceans and mollusks.

Females seeking mates make short flights, with whirring of wings and calling. In courtship, females swim around males, trying to make one follow her; males are usually reluctant, showing interest only gradually. In some cases, after leaving a male to care for her eggs and young, females find another mate and lay another clutch of eggs. Nest sites are on the ground, usually in low vegetation near water. Nests are a shallow scrape lined with grass, and leaves. Both sexes make scrapes, and females choose one. Then, probably both sexes help build their nests.

After mating, females lay 4, sometimes 3, olive to buff, blotched with dark brown eggs. Rarely 2 or 3 females will lay eggs in one nest. Incubation is by males only in 17-21 days. Downy young leave their nests within a day after hatching, and go to the shore of a pond. Males tend young and brood them while they are small, but young feed themselves. Males depart after about 2 weeks,and young are able to fly at about 3 weeks.

I spotted a solitary juvenile Red-necked Phalarope in the second brackish pond in our own Tijuana Estuary recently. You never know what you will see there while biking or walking on the great trails there. Until next week, happy birding!


Bryan Brillhart



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