Grey Phalarope

Grey Phalarope

Scientific name: Phalaropus fulicarius

Did you know: Grey Phalaropes are known for their unique swimming style, creating small vortices in the water to bring their prey to the surface!

What Do Grey Phalaropes Look Like? (how to identify them)

Grey Phalaropes are small, charming waders with a unique appearance that varies dramatically between summer and winter. 

In their breeding plumage, females are particularly colourful, displaying black upperparts that are streaked with cinnamon, and bright chestnut underparts. They have distinctive white wing bars that are visible when they’re flying. Males are similar but somewhat duller. 

Outside of the breeding season, both sexes adopt a more subdued look, with blue-grey upperparts and white underparts, complemented by a black hind crown and eye-patch.

Differences Between Male And Female Grey Phalaropes

The most notable difference between the sexes is during breeding season, where females exhibit more vivid colouring with chestnut underparts and a more pronounced grey patch on the nape. Males, while similar in pattern, are overall less vibrant and have buffier white faces.

What Do Grey Phalaropes Eat?

Grey Phalaropes have a varied diet. During breeding season, they feed primarily on insects, beetles, molluscs, and crustaceans, often found in marshy tundra near shallow pools. In the winter months at sea, their diet shifts to plankton and small fish.

Where Do Grey Phalaropes Live? (inc. migration info)

Grey Phalaropes spend much of their lives at sea, far from land, only coming ashore to breed in the Arctic. In the UK, they are typically seen along the coast or at inland wetlands, often appearing after being blown off course by storms. They are most commonly observed between October and January.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Grey Phalaropes)

While not particularly vocal, Grey Phalaropes produce a distinctive sound, especially during the breeding season. Their calls include a soft, high-pitched “kieerr-ik” and a notable rick-rick-rick when they take flight abruptly.

Fun Grey Phalarope Facts (kid friendly)

  • Grey Phalaropes are also known as Red Phalaropes in North America.
  • They have a unique swimming style, spinning in the water.
  • Females are more colourful than males in the breeding season.
  • They can eat by picking food off the water’s surface.
  • Grey Phalaropes lay 3-4 eggs per breeding season.
  • The chicks can swim and find food as soon as they hatch.
  • In winter, they live at sea and eat mostly plankton and small fish.
  • They are known to be approachable when found inland.
  • Grey Phalaropes are seen in the UK mostly after being blown off course by storms.
  • They breed in the Arctic during summer.

Facts About The Grey Phalarope

Diet: In winter, eats marine plankton picked from the sea's surface. On breeding grounds, grey phalaropes eat small insects and aquatic creatures.
Bird Family: Sandpipers, snipes and phalaropes
Length: 20-22cm
Wingspan: 34-41cm
Weight: 50-75g
Scientific Name: Phalaropus fulicarius

The Grey Phalarope Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • September
  • October
  • November