Red Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.1,350,000-2,980,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015), while the population in Russia has been estimated at c.10,000-1 million breeding pairs and >1,000 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009). The European population is estimated at 570-1,700 males, which equates to 1,100-3,400 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The population is therefore placed in the band 1,300,000-2,999,999 individuals.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is not known (Wetlands International 2015). In North America, the species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant increase over the last 40 years (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America. The European population trend is not known (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

This species breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia, generally wintering pelagically off western South America and western and south-western Africa (Snow and Perrins 1998).


Behaviour This species is a full migrant that travels via marine routes and has been observed migrating 80-160 km offshore. Adult females depart from the breeding grounds in early-June, followed by the adult males and juveniles in late-July and August, most arriving in the non-breeding quarters by the end of November. The species departs Chilean and South African seas in March, and West African and south-west African seas in April, migrating along the Arctic coasts and reoccupying breeding grounds from late-May to early-June. It may also rest 2-3 weeks at the edge of sea ice in the High Arctic, waiting for the land to thaw before nesting (Snow and Perrins 1998). Once in the breeding grounds, the species breeds between June and July (from mid-June to mid-July in Iceland, and from early-June to early-July in Russia). The species is gregarious at all times of the year (Snow and Perrins 1998), and will even breed in loose groups where the habitat is favourable.
Habitat Breeding This species breeds close to the coast on marshy tundra with small pools, on boggy meadows with moss and grass, in marshy river valleys, or on islets in fjords. Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season this species is pelagic and frequents upwelling zones in the tropics and subtropics where plankton occurs in high concentrations (e.g. over 50,000 organisms/litre).
Diet Breeding During the breeding season the diet of this species consists chiefly of invertebrates, such as adult and larval insects (e.g. beetles, caddisflies, dipteran flies, bugs), molluscs, crustaceans, annelid worms, spiders, mites, jellyfish (Johnsgard 1981) and occasionally plant material (seeds) when animal matter is scarce. Non-breeding During this season the species feeds at sea on plankton, including amphipods less than 2 mm long, Hydrozoa and small fish from the water surface or just below.
Breeding site The nest is a shallow cup or scrape on the ground in short vegetation (e.g. sedges or grasses) and is usually close to or surrounded by water (Johnsgard 1981, Snow and Perrins 1998).


The species is restricted to high latitude wet tundra areas, which are predicted to considerably decrease in area over the next century. While demonstrated to be better able to adjust nest initiation time to earlier snowmelt than other shorebird species studied in a limited area in Alaska (Saalfield and Lanctot 2017), this still remains a significant threat, causing the species to be assessed as Moderately Vulnerable in Alaska (Liebezeit et al. 2012). The species relies on predator alarm warning from breeding Arctic Terns Sterna paradisaea, and localised populations have decreased rapidly from some breeding colonies in Greenland in the absence of Arctic Terns (Jørgensen et al. 2007). Further to this, it is believed that this association may be due to Red Phalaropes being vulnerable to Arctic Fox Vulpes lagopus predation (Egevang et al. 2009).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The following information refers to the species's European range only: The species is listed under the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. It is listed under Appendix II of the Bern Convention. It is listed within nine marine Important Bird Areas. 

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Identify and designate Marine Protected Areas for important sites at sea. Monitor bycatch rates by establishing observer programmes on gillnet fisheries across its range.


Text account compilers
Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Butchart, S., Martin, R., Ashpole, J, Stuart, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Phalaropus fulicarius. Downloaded from on 02/10/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 02/10/2023.