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For information on Wisconsin's rare animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist

Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)



Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), a Special Concern species. Both males and females have a long, straight, slender black bill. Males are typically smaller than females. During the breeding period, the males have a white throat, chest, and nape, contrasted with a gray back. Its legs are black. The females have a more distinctive black stripe originating from the face down the sides of the neck, which ends at the foreneck and upperchest that is deep cinnamon. The upperbody is grey with a white underbody. The core of this shorebirds range is in the western United States and is found largely in the northwestern and eastern regions of Wisconsin. The species typically nests in open, shallow aquatic habitats like wetlands with a mix of ponds, sedge meadows, wet prairies, grassy marshes and other low vegetation. Three to four eggs are laid that are silvery to pale buff with black-brown spots. Incubation lasts 20-21 days. The species is threatened by the alteration and conversion of wetland habitats. The recommended avoidance period is May 10 to July 20.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Phalaropus tricolor in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/M
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1B
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

A guidance document is not available at this time. However, the bird calendar [PDF] contains dates for avoiding impacts to this and other rare Wisconsin birds when planning management activities.



Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope is a rare nesting bird in Wisconsin's marshes and sedge meadows.

Photo © Laura Erickson.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Wilson's Phalarope. Only natural communities for which Wilson's Phalarope is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Northern Sedge Meadow 3

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Wilson's Phalarope. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Wilson's Phalarope occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Monday, September 16, 2019