Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2003-
[Transcribed from a CFO sight record form]

Common name:

Red Phalarope

Scientific name: Phalaropus fulicarius
Date: May 27, 2003
Time: approx. 4:30 PM to 5:10 PM
Length of time observed: approx. forty minutes
Number: one
Age: Plumage: molting into adult alternate
Sex:  female (?)
Location: First (northwesternmost) sewage pond along US 191 south of Blanding, Utah
County: San Juan
Distance to bird: approximately 30 yards at closest approach.
Optical equipment: Nikon Fieldscope ED with 20-45x zoom eyepiece.
Weather: Weather was partly cloudy.
Light Conditions: The bird was first observed in silhouette; subsequently we got permission to enter the sewage ponds and were able to circle almost all the way around the bird, observing it from many angles in both direct and indirect sunlight.
Detailed description of bird: The bird had a much shorter, thicker bill than a Wilsonís Phalarope. The bill was of even thickness, straight, with a blunt tip; its length was about equal to the length of the head. The bill was yellow at the base, with the yellow extending about halfway out. The bird was very chunky compared to the adjacent Wilsonís Phalaropes. It was perhaps shorter in length from bill tip to tail tip, but clearly a bigger bird in all other dimensions. Its neck was notably shorter and thicker, it had a slightly shorter ďrear endĒ not projecting as high out of the water as the Wilsonís, and it had a distinctly squarish head, flat on top, with a protruding forehead descending steeply to the bill. The projection of the wingtips was approximately equal to that of the tail.
Plumage: the birdís underparts were mottled orangey-red and white. The orangey-red color was brightest and most solid on the flanks. The sides of the neck and cheek were mottled with a buffier orange. The upperparts (back and wings) were darker brown and streaky; this dark pattern extended in a thin line up the back of the neck to join with the darker crown. A contrastinly darker earpatch was visible on the birdís cheek. In flight, the bird had a clearly visible white wing stripe. [see photo]
Song or call & method of delivery: It was silent during our observations.
Behavior: The bird was in the company of three Wilsonís Phalaropes. Its actions were those of a typical phalarope: swimming in deep water, picking things off the surface, occasionally spinning in circles. The bird was observed in flight once, when the flock of four moved to an adjacent pond.
Habitat: the bird swam in the deep parts of two sewage ponds.
Similar species and
how were they eliminated:
The bird was easily separated from Wilsonís Phalarope with numerous direct comparative views and a plethora of field characters, including overall coloration, shape, bill size and shape, and white wing stripe. Red-necked Phalarope was also clearly eliminated by the entirely reddish underparts, the short thick bill with a blunt tip and a yellow base.
Previous experience with this & similar species: While working as a seabird spotter for The Bird Guide out of Newport, Oregon, I saw numerous Red Phalaropes across several pelagic trips. However, these birds were nearly always seen at a considerable distance. In the past year I have twice had closeup views of the species in winter plumage: last September at Barr Lake State Park near Denver, and this March from a fishing boat off Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, Mexico. I see many Wilsonís and Red-necked Phalaropes during the normal course of a birding year.
References consulted: I consulted Sibley after the fact.
Description from: notes made after observation
Observer: Nathan Pieplow  (and Andrew Spencer)
Observer's address: 4745-B White Rock Circle
Boulder State: CO  80301
Observer's e-mail address: Telephone: (303) 245-8421 email:
Other observers who independently identified
this bird:
Date prepared: May 30, 2003
Additional material: A photo was taken by Andrew Spencer ( [which may be submitted independently].
Additional comments: