Posted by: atowhee | June 21, 2020


Named for pioneer bird artist, Alexander Wilson*, this bird is the largest of the three phalarope species.  The trio is known for being well ahead of people in the Me-too Era.  For millennia the male phalaropes have had the duller plumage and the duty of incubating the eggs and raising the young.  The females may annually produce more than one clutch of eggs, each with a different male.  The females, not needing to hide on a ground nest, have brighter, bolder plumage.

They are among the signature species of Malheur and eastern Oregon, rarely seen west of the Cascades in this state.

Here, a female cleans and preens on the shore at Chickahominy.  When beauty is only perceived as feather-deep, one must maintain:


Another female in her reflecting pool along Potter’s Swamp Lane:

Phalaropes are all notorious for their whirling dervish imitations–swimming in tight circles, creating a small whirlpool that may bring up food from beneath the surface.  Yet they do sometimes act like “normal” shorebirds.  Here are two in the shallows of Mud Lake at The Narrows:

If there’s enough water these phalarope can often be seen in the roadside ditches along Hwy 205 or in the Diamond box canyon.  Here’s a 205 denizen, preening naturally:

Lastly, here’s a drab male creating his little whirlpool in the Bend sewer ponds, and feeding on the goodies:

His beak is not a poker or an ice-pick, it is a highly effective pair of tweezers.

Wilson’s Phalarope breed inland in US and Canada, they migrate mostly east of the Sierra and winter in South America, some as far south as Tierra del Fuego.

*The first person, before Audubon even, to try to draw pictures of all North American bird species. He was dead by 1813 and others finished his publications on the birds of the continent. Wilson discovered many species new to science and so has many namesake species, including one of our boldest yellow warblers and a storm-petrel he saw over the Atlantic.  Many of his drawings were later copied and re-cast by the long-live, much more successful Audubon.

Here’s the last Field Station birding trip for 2020:   Sept. 12(Sat)-Sept. 18(Fri)
This trip will allow us to spend a full day in the Steens where we will go to the peak at just under 10,000 feet elevation.  In the late summer we may get access to areas closed during breeding season.  There may be migrating raptors passing through the valley and mountains.  While many insectivorous birds will be gone there will also be songbirds on migration including huge numbers of White-crowned Sparrows and their cousins from several species.

Mammals possible on trips include: Belding’s ground squirrel, pronghorn, wild horses, mink, river otter, long-tailed weasel, badger, coyote, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmot, kit fox, Nuttall’s cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, bats, California ground squirrel. 

Arrive for dinner on the 12th, depart after breakfast on the 18th. To get more information or sign up for these trips, call the Malheur Field Station at (541) 493-2629.

Summer Birds 2020

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