Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wilson’s Phalarope/Lesser Yellowlegs

Last winter, Scott King and I made a deal. If I showed him a Lesser Yellowlegs, he would find a dragonfly I need for my list. I feel a little guilty about this deal, since I knew I’d be fairly safe in finding the yellowlegs. These three Lesser Yellowlegs strolled behind a female Wilson’s Phalarope this May at the Great Western Industrial Park near Randolph, Minnesota.

The phalarope is less common than the yellowlegs. I have previously posted on the species. Most birders know of their reversal of sex roles. Female phalaropes are larger and more brightly plumaged than their males. The females often mate with more than one male. The male provides all parental care of the young.

Lesser Yellowlegs’ breeding cycle is less well known to birders, but is also interesting. Males court females and both parents incubate their eggs. Both sexes vigorously defend their territories and care for their precocial young. Females, however, tend to migrate from their breeding areas before their young can fly, leaving the males to become the sole defenders of the chicks (Tibbitts and Moskoff 2014).

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