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The Red-necked Phalarope is a small shorebird with a thin, needle-like bill. Both sexes have a dark head with a white spot above the eye, white throat, and a dark back with bold, buff-coloured streaking. The bright, chestnut-red stripe down the sides of the neck is distinctive. Females have brighter and bolder plumage during the breeding season than males.

Weight: 29 to 44 g (1.0 to 1.6 oz). Length: 18 to 20 cm (7.1 to 7.9 in).

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 Red-necked Phalaropes can be found throughout much of the NWT during the breeding season. Red-necked Phalaropes spend much of the year at sea. They primarily come inland during the breeding season and on migration.

Range map information

The typical sex-roles found in most bird species are reversed in phalaropes. Females have brightly-coloured plumage and compete for males. Males are better camouflaged and are solely responsible for parental care of the eggs and young. 

Red-necked Phalaropes arrive in the NWT from late-May to early-June. They breed in low and sub-arctic tundra, and tundra-forest transition habitats. Their nest-sites are typically found in grass-sedge vegetation near freshwater wetlands, lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams. Females lay a clutch of four eggs which is then incubated by the male for a period of 19-21 days.

Red-necked Phalaropes feed on plankton and aquatic invertebrates which they capture with their bills while swimming.  They can often be observed spinning in circles, which creates an upward current that draws prey items closer to the surface where they can be captured more easily.


Red-necked Phalaropes appear to have experienced significant declines at an important migratory staging area since the 1970s, but the overall population trend is unknown.  

Potential threats in the Northwest Territories include breeding habitat degradation from threats like climate change and industrial development, and direct disturbance at nest sites from human activities, such as resource exploration and development.

COSEWIC assessed Red-necked Phalarope as Special Concern in 2014 because of population decline and threats. Red-necked Phalarope was listed as Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2017.

Red-necked Phalaropes and their nests are protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

A national management plan for Red-necked Phalarope is available on the federal Species at Risk Public Registry.

Dehcho Gwich'in Inuvialuit North Slave / Tłı̨chǫ Sahtú South Slave