The spinning paddling behavior of phalaropes pulls sediment from the bottom of a pond for feeding by inducing an upward vortex.

Red-necked Phalarope, Adult breeding, 15may2007, Morro Bay, CA Estuary - handheld from an outrigger canoe

Image: Alan D. Wilson /

Red-Necked Phalarope (Male) , Wrights Pond, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

“Another way of using vortices to put edibles where they can be eaten underlies (literally) a peculiar behavior of phalaropes (noted as surface-tension transporters in the last chaper). A Phalarope spends much of its time in a single place on the surface of shallow water, spinning rapidly around its own body, as in figure 6.12b. According to Obst et al. (1996), the spinning represents the recoil of the peculiar paddling pattern with which it creates an upward vortex like a tiny, underwater tornado or water spout. That vortex brings up edible items, with barely a pause in the spinning the bird snags in its bill.” (Vogel 2003:136)

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Red-necked phalarope feeding behavior

Last Updated August 18, 2016