The Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), known as the Grey Phalarope in Europe, is a species of wading bird that is found in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory and winters mainly at sea on tropical oceans.
The Red Phalarope is approximately 8 inches long. The female is typically larger than the male. It has lobed toes and a straight bill. The breeding female is predominantly dark brown and black above, with red underparts and white cheek patches. The bill is yellow with a black tip. The breeding male is a duller version of the female. The young are light gray and brown above. They have beige colored underparts and a dark patch through the eye. Winter birds are mostly gray above and white below. The black eye patch is always present. The bill is black in the winter. The call is a short beek.
The avian sex roles are reversed in phalaropes. The female is larger and more striking in appearance than the male. The female also will pursue the male in courtship and will compete for nesting territory. The female will also defend the nesting territory and their mates aggressively. Once the female lays its eggs, it will leave the male to incubate them as she begins the southward migration. Three to six olive-brown eggs are laid in a ground nest near the water. The young are able to feed themselves and are able to fly within 18 days.
The Red Phalarope swims in a small, rapid circle, forming a small whirlpool when feeding. It is believed that this behavior aids in feeding by raising food from the bottom of shallow water. The bird reaches into the outskirts of the vortex with its bill and plucks small insects or crustaceans caught up therein. It will also catch insects by flying up into the air after them. On the open sea, it can be found around ocean currents that produce swells and is often seen near groups of whales. When not nesting, it sometimes travels in flocks. This is an often tame species and is readily approachable.
The Red Phalarope is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.