Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Wilson's phalarope
Phalaropus tricolor

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Genus: Phalaropus
  • Species: Phalaropus tricolor
  • Authority: Vieillot

Comments on taxonomy:
Local names - summer phalarope, sea goose, swimming sand piper *03, 06*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Uncommon migrant *02,09*. Rare summer resident in extreme n. east Illinois, possible nesting in Lake Co. in 1977 *09*.


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
Species on state endangered list due to lowering of water levels and the removal of open water, see Bowles et al. (1981).

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir

Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

 


Forest cover types: No records.

Associated tree species: No records.

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Lacustrine Littoral Emergent vegetation Narrowleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Narrowleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Open water of unknown bottom type   Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Unknown perennial Emergent vegetation Narrowleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Wilson's phalarope is the most land dwelling of the phalaropes *03, 13*. Prefers shallow waters of smaller lakes and rivers with grassy surrounding, shallow pools, mud flats, rain pools in pasture and meadowland *02,03,05,08,13,21,22*.

Important plant and animal association: Shovelers and other water fowl. Mosquito larvae.
species has a commensal relationship with birds who stir up bottom, exposing food *03,10,15*. Mosquito larvae often mentioned as major food *03,08,12,14*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Central and eastern grasslands- bluestem prairie Grass-forb Spring/summer
Cropland Grass-forb Spring/summer
Lakes Special habitat Spring/summer
Nonforested wetland Grass-forb Spring/summer
Wet-mesic prairie Special habitat Spring/summer
Wetland Grass-forb Spring/summer
Lakes and ponds Special habitat Spring/summer
Forageland Grass-forb Spring/summer
Prairie restoration Special habitat All
Marsh restoration Special habitat All

Species-habitat interrelations: Type of habitat (grassy wetlands/shallows ponds and lakes with grassy borders) function (feed/breed/nest) value (high) season (spring/ summer). Existence of given habitats appears to be essential for use during migration, feeding/foraging sites and as potential breeding and nesting sites within the state *02,03,08,09,12,13,14*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Central and eastern grasslands- bluestem prairie Grass-forb All Water column- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Wet-mesic prairie Special habitat All Water column- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Wetland Grass-forb All Water column- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Lakes and ponds Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All Water column- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Forageland Grass-forb All Water column- arthropods
Terrestrial subsurface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
Species feeds mainly in shallow water, mud flats, shores and occasionally in terrestrial grassy areas *03,05,14,21*. Johns (1969) reported that the species eats some seeds of aquatic plants *14*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Central and eastern grasslands- bluestem prairie Grass-forb Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Cropland Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Nonforested wetland Grass-forb Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Forageland Grass-forb Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation

Comments on breed-guilding:
Nesting takes place on periphery of potholes, sloughs, or shallow waters with surrounding prairies or pastures *05,08,09,12,17,21*. Courtship activities occur along shorelines or in open water of ponds and lakes *11*. Many authors suggest polyandry to occur but Johns (1969) believes promiscuity is the most probable mating system *14*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is CARNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Insecta See comments
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Important:
Insecta See comments
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Juvenile:
Insecta See comments
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Adult:
Insecta See comments
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva

Comments on food habits: 
General: Mainly aquatic insects eaten but also some terrestrial insects *05, 12*. Mosquito and crane fly larvae and predacious diving beetles mentioned often *03,05,08,12,14*.
Juvenile: Juveniles assumed to have same food habits as adults *00,14*. Johns (1969) mentions young being led to feeding grounds soon after hatching.
Adult: See [FH].


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: see comments
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: mud flats
  • Aquatic habitats: vegetated offshore islands
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: prairie potholes
  • Aquatic habitats: seasonal wet depressions
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries
  • Unknown

Limiting:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: see comments
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: prairie potholes
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland

Egg

  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: see comments
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: mud flats
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: prairie potholes
  • Aquatic habitats: seasonal wet depressions
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: vegetated offshore islands
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: see comments
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: mud flats
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: prairie potholes
  • Aquatic habitats: seasonal wet depressions
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: vegetated offshore islands
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Breeding adult:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: vegetated offshore islands
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: prairie potholes
  • Aquatic habitats: seasonal wet depressions
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Sloughs, mud flats, potholes and shallow waters with surrounding grasslands often mentioned as feeding, foraging, breeding and nesting habitat *02,03,05,08,09,12,13,21,22*.
Feeding juvenile: See [JF]. Bent (1927) reports young "care for themselves soon after hatching." Juveniles display "spinning" while foraging as do the adults, see Johns (1969).
Resting juvenile: Assumed to rest in or near nesting site *00,05,12,13*.
Feeding adult: Spin in circles, jabbing at prey as they begin to move *03,05,08,14*. Food obtained while walking through shallow water and muddy shores *03,05,14*.
Resting adult: Hohn (1967) viewed species sleeping in full daylight, standing and afloat.
Breeding adult: Breeds in small colonies near shallow waters *03,08*. Copulation standing on land or in shallow water *08*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *02*.

Physical description: Length 8 1/2 to 10 in., female larger of the two *03,04,05,06,12*. Wingspread 14 1/2 to 16 in. (116 to 137 mm) *03,12*. Bill needle-like *02,04,05,12*. Weight 1 1/2 to 3 oz. *03*. Male and female different color in summer. Female more colorful with pale gray back, crown, wings and tail. Broad black stripe through eyes, down neck, blending into rich cinnamon. Faint beige on neck, white underneath *03,04,05,06*. Male duller with only faint cinnamon patch on side of neck, white spot behind neck *03,04,05*. Male and female similar in fall/winter with pale yellow legs, gray above, white below and white streak above eyes *03,05*. No white wing stripe on male or female, white rump patch all year round *03, 04,05*. Juvenile plumage characterized by white chin and throat, grayish white below, "ochraceous" buff upper with band across chest *14*.

Reproduction: Female arrives on breeding grounds, before the male, from late April to mid May *11,14*. Female defends the mobile vicinity of a male from other females with flying threats *03,08,11, 17*. Courtship, characterized by repeated bowing and aerial chasing, is initiated by the female *03,06,12,21*. The female is more aggressive during courtship while the male is more so during egg laying and incubation *17*. In a North Dakota study, pair formation was completed in mid may *17*. After this formation, male will defend female from other birds of the same species *17*. Copulation takes place from mid May to early June *17*. The nest, built by the male, consists of a shallow scrape, scantily or well lined with dead grasses among short or taller grass or mowed areas, are located on periphery of shallow waters, sloughs, potholes *03,05,08,12,13,17,21,22*. Nesting done in lose colonies when in favorable habitat *22*. Three to four eggs (usually 4) per clutch *03,05,06,08,12,17,22*. [Pairs separate after egg laying *17*.] Eggs are laid from may through June in various locations in the U.S. and Canada *03,08,14,17*. Eggs buffy, heavily blotched with blacks and browns *03,06,12,22*. Average measurements are 33.0 x 23.0 mm *22*. Incubation period from 20 to 21 days, performed by male *03,06,08,11,12,17,22*. Females continue to court incubating males who reject this activity with head forward displays, flying threats and pecks *17*. Kagarise (1979) observed hatching in mid June in North Dakota. Kagarise (1979) reported that all the eggs disappeared in 96% of the 23 nests observed and that only 3% of 80 eggs laid hatched. Young cared for by male who leads them to feeding site soon after hatching. At this time, young may run about and care for themselves *03,13,14*.

Behavior: Territoriality mainly displayed during copulation, see reproduction. Females gather into feeding flocks away from nesting area soon after eggs are laid *17,22*. Hohn (1967) reports that females disappear shortly after the beginning of incubation. Migration through U.S. mainly over interior prairies west of the Mississippi River *03,13*. Departure from breeding grounds from late July to mid September *02*. Winters in marshlands of South America *03,05, 16*. Species breeding behavior promiscuous. Polyandry observed *17*.

Limiting factors: Hohn (1967) observed 7 nests where only one produced young while other nests were believed to be robbed by mammalian predators. Predators of eggs and young include snakes, birds, and small mammals *17*. Less of nesting habitat *09*. Parasitism by cowbirds in a few instances *03,07*.

Population parameters: Evidence of sex ratios showing males outnumbering females *08,13,14*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Developing/maintaining edge (ecotones)
  • Preserving endangered species habitat
  • Preserving sensitive species habitat
  • Performing special survey prior to prescription
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Controlling land use and human activities
  • Seasonal restriction of human use of habitats
  • Controlling water levels
  • Developing/maintaining lakes and ponds
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Developing/maintaining mudflats
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Restoration of wetlands (return flooded or drained areas to previous wetland conditions)
  • Mowing
  • Develop/maintain prairie
  • Developing/maintaining water holes, ponds, potholes, etc.
  • Restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting

Adverse:

  • Draining ponds/lakes
  • Drawdown of ponds/lakes
  • Draining wetlands
  • Drawdown of ponds/lakes

Comments on management practices:
Ecotones of grassland/shallow waters mentioned often as preferred breeding sites *02,03,05,11,13*. Draining wetlands adverse to species *09*. Nesting does occur in mowed areas *05*. Nesting has been induced by artificially controlling water levels *09*. Protected by the Ill. Endangered Species Act of 1972, the Ill. Wildlife Code of 1971 and the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 *09,18,19*.

 


REFERENCES

0. IRISH, J.T. 1984. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (217)333-6846.

1. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1982. THIRTY-FOURTH SUPPLEMENT TO THE AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. SUPPLEMENT AUK 99(3).

2. BOHLEN, H. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

3. TERRES, J. 1980. AUDUBON SOCIETY: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. ALFRED KNOPF, NEW YORK. 1109 P.

4. PETERSON, R. 1980. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. 4 ED. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 384 P.

5. POUGH, R.H. 1951. AUDUBON WATER BIRD GUIDE: WATER, GAME AND LARGE LAND BIRDS. DOUBLEDAY AND COMPANY, INC., GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK. 352 PP. + 48 PLS.

6. NUTTALL, T. 1919. BIRDS OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, PART II GAME AND WATER BIRDS. LITTLE, BROWN AND CO., BOSTON. 431 PP.

7. FRIEDMANN, H. 1963. HOST RELATIONS OF THE PARASITIC COWBIRDS. U.S. NATL. MUSEUM BULL. WASHINGTON D.C. NO. 233. P. 45.

8. HOHN, E.O. 1967. OBSERVATIONS ON THE BREEDING BIOLOGY OF WILSON'S PHALAROPE (STEGANOPUS TRICOLOR) IN CENTRAL ALBERTA. AUK 84(2): 220-244.

9. BOWLES, M.L., V.E. DIERSING, J.E. EBINGER AND H.C. SCHULTZ, EDS. 1981. ENDANGERED AND THREATENED VERTEBRATE ANIMALS AND VASCULAR PLANTS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERV. 189 P.

10. WILLIAMS, G.G. 1953. WILSON PHALAROPES AS COMMENSALS. THE CONDOR. VOL. 55(1):158.

11. HOWE, M.A. 1975. SOCIAL INTERACTIONS IN FLOCKS OF COURTING WILSON'S PHALAPORES (PHALAROPUS TRICOLOR). THE CONDOR 77(1): 24-33.

12. GODFREY, W.E. 1966. THE BIRDS OF CANADA. NATL. MUS. OF CANADA, BULLETIN NO. 203. BIO SERIES NO. 73. 428 PP.

13. BENT, A.C. 1927. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN SHORE BIRDS. U.S. NATL. MUS. BULL. NO. 142.

14. JOHNS, J.E. 1969. FIELD STUDIES OF WILSON'S PHALAROPE. THE AUK 86(4):660-670.

15. SIEGFRIED, W.R. AND B.D.J. BATTS, 1972. WILSON'S PHALAROPES FORMING FEEDING ASSOCIATIONS WITH SHOVELERS. THE AUK 89(3):667-668.

16. BURGER, J. AND M. HOWE. 1975. NOTES ON WINTER FEEDING BEHAVIOR AND MOLT IN WILSON'S PHALAROPE. AUK 92(3):442-451.

17. KAGARISE, C.M. 1979. BREEDING BIOLOGY OF THE WILSON'S PHALAROPE IN NORTH DAKOTA. BIRD BANDING 50(1):12-22.

18. U.S. FISH AND WILDLILFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAPTER 1. PP. 11-18. 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPEC. PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERV. SERVICES ADMIN. OCT. 1.

19. ILLINOIS DEPARMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS, CH. 61. WILDLIFE. ART. II. PAR. 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 120 P.

20. KLEEN, V.M. 1983. FIELD NOTES: SPRING MIGRATION. ILL. AUDUBON BULL. NO. 206. PP. 28-41.

21. HOWE, M.A. 1975. BEHAVIORAL ASPECTS OF THE PAIR BOND IN WILSON'S PHALAROPE. WILSON'S BULL. 87(2):248-270.

22. HARRISON, H.H. 1979. A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS' NESTS. HOUGHTON- MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 279 PP. + 32 PLS.

 


 

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