Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2023-78

Common name:

Red Phalarope

Scientific name: Phalaropus fulicarius
Date: 14 Oct 2023
Time: 5:50 pm
Length of time observed: about a half hour as we observed it from the road and then as we approached along the shore
Number: 1
Age: unknown
Sex: unknown
Location: Pruess Reservoir (south of Garrison)
County: Millard
Latilong: 38.88882, -114.01492
Elevation: approx. 5350'
Distance to bird: About 60-80 feet at closest.
Optical equipment: Leica 10x40 binoculars and Kowa scope
Weather: Warm but breezy. Some clouds.
Light Conditions: Low-angle light in various stages of back-lighting. We managed to get almost 45 degrees from the sun at best. That being said, the light was pretty good at revealing the field marks.
Description:        Size of bird:  one of the smaller phalaropes -- over a half foot in length
(Description:)       Basic Shape: shorebird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Gray back/folded wings, white below, dark face pattern, rosy wash to throat and a hint of one on the hind neck.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Thin and straight for plucking insects and small aquatics from on and near the surface of the water.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
-- pale gray, essentially unstreaked back/folded wings
-- white below
-- bill short and seemed stout for a phalarope (saw no pale base)
-- on the smaller end for a phalarope (smaller than a Wilson's)
-- reddish wash to throat [upper breast] and fainter on hindneck
-- dark cap continuing in thin line down the back of the neck
-- dark cheek patch

I will admit that the bill thickness worried me initially, as it did not seem as obviously thick as some internet photos of this species show. But I do believe it is a bit thicker than a Red-necked phalarope's. This is more obvious in some photos than others.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: silent
Behavior: Floating all alone in a buoyant manner in the middle of a choppy reservoir, but drifted fairly close to us (as if sent by the generous gods).
Habitat: Open water of a fresh-water reservoir. Vegetation along the shore of the reservoir consisted mostly of scrubby willows and similar bushes.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
I will confine my discussion to the phalaropes, which this clearly is:

> Wilson's phalarope is less compact, has a much longer and proportionately thinner bill, does not have the "ear patch" pattern of our bird, and the dark cap goes all the way to the bill.

> Red-necked phalarope is structurally more similar to our bird than the Wilson's, but differs by having a streaked back and thinner bill. Although this bird's bill was on the thinner end of the spectrum for this species, I would not call it "needle-like" (as the Red-necked phalaropes often is). The red wash to the throat and the hindneck is also more suggestive of a Red phalarope.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Oddly enough, the first phalarope I ever saw was this species -- but in that part of the world they called it the Grey phalarope (yes, with an e).

According to eBird, I've seen this bird on only six occasions. However, I've recorded the Red-necked phalarope, to which this bird is most closely compared, 110 times.
References consulted: National Geographic and Sibley field guides.
Description from: Notes taken at the time of the sighting
From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: David S. Wheeler
Observer's address: 2196 S 1000 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Lauri Taylor
Date prepared: 18 Nov 2023
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: Some major bushwhacking involved in trying to crash our way back to the highway through the thick willows. Lauri chose a smarter path than did I. Walked along the shore to get closer look at the phalarope and sank in the mud.