Phalaropus lobatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Charadriiformes > Scolopacidae
Red-necked Phalarope is a beautiful tiny wader and one that, as a breeding species, has a preference for waterbodies with plenty of emergent vegetation.
The species is a migrant, returning to Scotland in spring from wintering quarters at sea. Remarkably, tracking studies have revealed that Scottish individuals can winter as far away as the eastern Pacific. With a breeding population of just a couple of dozen pairs, this is not a species easily encountered by the casual observer.
Phalaropes have reversed gender responsibilities with the duller-plumaged male looking after the nest and chicks. Females have a striking scarlet neck patch, set-off by a slate grey head and bright white throat. These birds have an unusual feeding action, in which they spin around on shallow waters, creating a vortex that brings invertebrate prey to the surface.
Red-necked Phalarope identification is often straightforward.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Red-necked Phalarope, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
In the UK, Red-necked Phalarope is restricted to Scotland and the population fluctuated between 1968–72 and 2008–11 from around 15 to 30 breeding pairs (Balmer et al. 2013). However, there has been a strong increase in the population over the 25 years to 2019, with a five-year mean of 78 breeding pairs over the period 2015–2019.
Red-necked Phalaropes are very rare breeders in Scotland and Ireland. The main UK stronghold is Shetland; birds were also present on the Outer Hebrides, Inner Hebrides and in northeast Scotland.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||14|
|% occupied in breeding season||0.5|
|No. occupied in winter||5|
|% occupied in winter||0.2|
European Distribution Map
Red-necked Phalarope range and numbers have fluctuated over the course of the breeding atlases.
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||-22.2%|
Red-necked Phalaropes are late-spring migrants and a rare breeding species, with autumn passage of juveniles from September onwards.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Red-necked Phalarope, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||12 years 10 months 20 days (set in 2009)|
|Field Codes||2-letter: NK | 5-letter code: RENPH | Euring: 5640|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Red-necked Phalarope from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
Recent tracking studies have confirmed that the UK population is linked to the Icelandic population as both populations migrate to winter in the Pacific (Smith et al. 2014, 2018). The Icelandic population is also increasing but the drivers of these increases are not known.
Information about conservation actions
See Atlas account
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