Sunday, September 6, 2015

Wilson's Phalarope's Feeding Around Our Kayaks

During our time on the water in the Johnston Straight we encountered these delicate little shore birds flying and feeding in flocks around our kayaks.  No one recognized what species of bird we had encountered.  Back at camp we pulled out of the dry bag library a Field Guide to North American Birds and the search was on to discover the name of these adorable highly active little birds.  We finally identified them as Wilson’s Phalarope’s after about half of us spent time flipping through the Field Guide.  In the above video (shot with my phone) you can see them close up at around the 3 minute mark.  I was originally attempting to catch on video a humpback whale in the distance.  If you listen quietly to the video you can hear it as it surfaces.  However, I realized after several minutes that the whale was headed the other direction and the little birds were fascinating.  The picture above was captured by Ken Spence.  Nature offers so many unique opportunities both large and small and you have to stop and appreciate them all.

Wilson's Phalarope’s are a medium-sized sandpiper with gray-brown upperparts, red-brown streaks on back and shoulders, red-brown markings on white underparts, gray crown, white face, black eye-line, a black needle-like bill, gray wings and a white tail and rump.  The Wilson's Phalarope was first described in 1819 by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot, a French ornithologist. Its common name commemorates the American ornithologist Alexander Wilson.  This bird is the largest of the phalaropes, and is often very tame and approachable.  The global population of this bird is estimated to be around 1.5 million individual birds.  A group of phalaropes has many collective nouns, including a "dopping", "swirl", "twirl", "whirl", and "whirligig" of phalaropes.    


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