Wilson's Phalarope - Phalaropus tricolor
Small (22 to 24 cm) aquatic sandpiper with fringed toes, needle-like bill, white underparts and rump. During the breeding season, larger females are more brightly plumaged than males. Breeding females possess pale blue gray forehead and crown; white supercilium borders black streak that passes from lores, through and below the eye, down sides of neck; white streak trails from back of head, down nape to upper back; throat cinnamon buff; chestnut scapulars and mantle; wings gray brown and underparts and rump white; tail pale grayish; bill black, legs grayish to black. Breeding males are smaller and generally less brightly plumaged. Nonbreeding plumage of both sexes: pale gray above and underparts and rump white (Colwell and Jehl 1994).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
In the Bozeman area, normal migration periods are from May 4 to 30, and July 7 to September 1; peak numbers were on May 15 and August 15 (Skaar 1969).
During spring, the species is widespread in the valley in lakes, ponds and flooded fields. Summer birds are restricted to marshy borders of lakes and ponds (Skaar 1969).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (406) 444-3655.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
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- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Small aquatic invertebrates in freshwater or hypersaline environments; also some terestrial invertebrates. On breeding grounds forages on open water and flooded meadows, less frequently in upland habitats and along beaches (Colwell and Jehl 1994).
Nests in sparse to dense vegetation of uplands, marshes, and roadside ditches. Nest is a grass-lined depression. Eggs oval to pyriform, buff with slight gloss, covered with brown spots/blotches. Brooding by male only. Modal clutch size 5 (Colwell and Jehl 1994). Nesting is in June (Davis 1961). Young chicks were in the water near Fortine from June 26 to August 13.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Colwell, M. A., and J. R. Jehl, Jr. 1994. Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor). Species Account Number 083. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Davis, C.V. 1961. A distributional study of the birds of Montana. Ph.D. dissertation. Oregon State University, Corvallis. 462 pp.
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- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
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- Casey, D. 2005. Rocky Mountain Front avian inventory. Final report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy by the American Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, Montana.
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- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"