Iceland – Red-necked Phalaropes

You get a lot of Phalaropes for your Icelandic Krona on Flatey Island.


They were ridiculously unfazed by humans, even at close quarters. This series of shots were taken laying on my front, lens at the waters edge of a large shallow ditch. The area also hosted a colony of noisy Arctic Tern. Above, the sky echoed to the sound of winnowing Snipe as they dive bomb over head. A sound that is almost heard everywhere in Iceland along with their curious coughing song delivered from fence posts and even roof tops.


The island also has many pairs or Eider, Redshank, Snipe & Snow Bunting the later of which had fledged young. One home owner called me over to see an Eider that nests every year near his wood shed. “Do you like Eider” he said, then led me over until I almost stood on the perfectly camouflaged nest and occupant… He laughed.

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Activity around the pool is frenetic, lots of quarrelsome goings on within small groups. They vastly out number Grey Phalarope which breed in the closed off areas of the island.


A “drab” male



Interactions seem complex, I couldn’t work out who was with whom. I must do some reading about the breeding biology and social behaviour of these “gender” swapping birds!.

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This is the first time I’ve seen Red-necked Phalaropes since the world learnt they don’t, as has been assumed for many years, spend the winter in the North Atlantic but in fact travel to the Pacific coast of Peru. It’s here they while away the northern hemisphere winter. An amazing and unique East to West migration route. Another illuminating insight thanks to GPS tracking.


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