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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Gray Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius

Also known as the red phalarope, this short-billed wader shows a remarkable reversal of roles when it breeds. Unlike most birds, the female gray phalarope—shown here—has a much brighter breeding plumage than the male. Once she has mated and laid her eggs, she takes no part in incubation or raising the young. By comparison with other waders, gray phalaropes are highly aquatic birds and spend much of their time afloat. They breed close to coasts, and once they have migrated south, gray phalaropes often overwinter far out at sea.

Gray Phalaropezoom image
  • Order Charadriiformes
  • Length 8–9 in (20–22 cm)
  • Weight 2–3 oz (50–75 g)
  • Habitat Marshy coastal tundra, plankton-rich open ocean
  • Distribution Arctic coasts (breeding); South Atlantic and eastern South Pacific (non-breeding)
Gray Phalarope habitat mapzoom image