Month of Squares

April Squares: Spinning Like Tops

This is my day 11 contribution to Becky’s April Squares: Top photo challenge.

This one will need some explaining. These are Wilson’s Phalaropes feeding on Middle Quill Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. One of the three species that make up the Phalarope family of birds.

Phalaropes are waders (known as shorebirds in North America) with a couple of interesting features. One of their feeding techniques is to spin in circles when swimming. It’s unusual enough for a wader species to swim let alone spin in circles. The reason for the spinning is that it stirs up the water and mud on the bottom to bring food to the surface.

The other interesting feature of Phalaropes is that the females have the brighter, more impressive plumage while the males are duller. In this photo it’s a colourful female in front and a duller male behind. The reason for this is because once the female has laid her eggs she clears off, leaving the more camouflaged male to incubate the eggs and raise the young.

April Squares: Spinning Like Tops


14 replies on “April Squares: Spinning Like Tops”

oh wow never heard of them before, how fabulous. Love when waders do something very different to the others.

Flamingos have a circling technique too!

I have posted about the females being brighter than the males previously but never about the feeding behaviour. They sometimes reminded me of those clockwork toys that go in circles.

PS occasionally we see a Redshank swimming, and it confuses us so much. Work it out after a minute or two, but a behaviour we are just not accustomed to!

I suspect most waders are capable of swimming but for Phalaropes it’s part of their daily lives. I saw a Red-necked Phalarope in the middle of one of the south Cheshire meres spinning around like a clockwork toy in the early 1990s. It was so far from the edge of the mere it’s tiny in my record photo of it.

Thank you. They’re an interesting family of birds that don’t seem to like doing normal shorebird behaviour. I had a Red-necked Phalarope in England in the early 1990s and it spent all its time swimming in the middle of the lake occasionally spinning around like a clockwork toy.

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