Normally when Wilson’s Phalaropes Phalaropus tricolor stop by at Jamaica Bay they are on their fall migration and have already lost their breeding finery and are an unremarkable gray and white bird.  Don’t get me wrong; seeing a phalarope is usually one of the highlights of a shorebird search but I always thought that someday I would have to head up to the tundra to see a phalarope in breeding plumage.*  So you can imagine my appreciation for the breeding-plumaged Wilson’s Pharalopes that showed up at the East Pond of Jamaica Bay and lingered long enough for me to get to them and enjoy their presence.

Not only do Wilson’s Phalaropes look pretty darn cool but phalaropes in general are some of the few birds in which the female looks fancier, with more more striking coloration, and is larger as well.  The gender anomalies don’t stop there, either; the female defends a nesting territory, pursues the male, and, once mating happens, the female lays her eggs and takes off, leaving the male to incubate the eggs and raise the young.  Really, when one stops and thinks, it is a wonder that any phalaropes exist at all!

Anyway, enjoy the pictures, all taken at the East Pond of Jamaica Bay on Sunday, 23 May, 2010, except the shot of the bird in basic plumage (the last picture).  That was taken in August of 2007, also at Jamaica Bay’s East Pond.

Remember, this last shot is of a basic-plumaged bird from over two years ago…

This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #92.  Go check it out!

*Of course, if I did that I wouldn’t see any Wilson’s Phalaropes.  As Clare pointed out in the comments, to see Wilson’s Phalaropes in breeding plumage one should head to the prairies of western Canada and the western United States.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.