Archive for June 18th, 2012
Among phalaropes, small oceanic shorebirds, polandry rules.
Polyandry is sexual role reversal: the female, shown here, is much more colorful, slightly larger, and after laying her eggs abandons the nest. The smaller, drabber male is left to incubate the eggs and brood the young unassisted. The female will drive other females away from her mate, but only until the eggs are laid.
This female is a Red-necked Phalarope. Alaska also has Red Phalaropes, and rarely, Wilson’s Phalarope. The Red-necked is the smallest of the North American phalaropes, at just 18-20 centimeters.
Red-necked Phalarope females are also polygynous. They will breed with several males if they have the chance.
These are oceanic birds, and famous among birders for their behavior. They swim very quickly in tight circles, to draw their small prey up from a few inches down. They look like windup toys. Hyperactive, highly energetic, they can be identified at a distance by behavior alone.
Like Alaska’s sea ducks, there are primarily ocean birds, coming ashore in the far north to breed. Their sexual role reversal has made them better-studied than a lot of their cousins, but their winter habits and habitat are still poorly understood.
But for WC, they are a pretty, elegant grace note on on alpine ponds.