Red-necked PhalaropePhalaropus lobatus (Linnaeus)
Status Common transient, rare in summer. They are common during migration, but because they travel far offshore, our records are incomplete. Our earliest reported spring arrival was on Cape Sable on 29 April 1977. Large numbers were passing Brier Island between 12 and 21 May 1979, and 300-500 birds were there on 23 May 1969. The birds' passage lasts until the first week of June; the latest spring reports were of over 100 birds near Pictou on 5 June 1967, and of four females in breeding plumage off Bird Islands, Victoria County, on 8 June 1974.
Non-breeders may remain offshore; small numbers were seen through summer 1969 around the Lurcher Lightship off Yarmouth. The fall migration begins earlier than does that of the Red Phalarope and extends from early July to early September, with stragglers later. Some early observations (R.W. Tufts) in the Bay of Fundy off Digby Neck are: approximately 1500 on 8 July 1930, several hundreds there on 9 July 1931, and approximately 1000 on 20 July 1935. Only three were identified as Red Phalaropes, and all others near enough to see clearly were Red-necked Phalaropes.
In August during more recent years, however, the Red, not the Red-necked Phalarope has been by far the commoner species on the Nova Scotian side of the Bay of Fundy. The situation is reversed on the New Brunswick side, where the numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes off Deer and Campobello islands have been put at over 250,000 birds and Red Phalaropes are scarce. An unusual inland bird was observed at Sheffield Mills, Kings County, some 16 km from Minas Basin on 23 September 1977. Few Red-necked Phalaropes are seen in Nova Scotia after the end of September, although there are several late October sightings and one very late straggler appeared at Cherry Hill Beach, Lunenburg County, on 21 November 1971.
Description Length: 18-20 cm. All plumages: Bill more slender and pointed than that of the Red Phalarope. Adult female in summer: Upperparts dark gray; back and scapulars with two buff lines forming a V on back; sides of neck and foreneck rufous; greater wing coverts tipped with white; flanks gray; rest of underparts white. Adult male in summer: Similar to female but upperparts duller, showing more light brown or buff; rufous on neck more restricted. Adults in winter: Upperparts mostly gray; gray stripe from eye to region about ear; greater wing coverts tipped with white as in Red Phalarope; underparts white, mottled with gray on breast.
Range Circumpolar. In North America, breeds in the Arctic south to James Bay, the Aleutians and the southern tip of Greenland. Winters off Peru, the southern Arabian Peninsula and Indonesia. Unlike the Red Phalarope, it is not known to winter in the Atlantic; the birds we see in the Maritimes probably move inland across the continent later and winter off the Pacific coast of South America.
Remarks In breeding plumage, the Red-necked Phalarope, formerly known as "Northern Phalarope", is readily distinguished from the Red Phalarope by its darker upperparts and pale underparts. However, both species are in winter plumage by the time they reach Nova Scotia in July. At this season, Red-necked Phalaropes are best identified by their strongly striped scapulars and by their more slender bills and necks.
Although the Red Phalarope is often seen at sea during the fall, Red-necked Phalaropes are for the most part reported only from the Bay of Fundy region. Birds which breed in the eastern Arctic probably migrate over land to reach us. The tide-rips at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy are as important a feeding area for the Red-necked Phalarope during fall migration as the mudflats at the head of the bay are for the Semipalmated Sandpiper.
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