phalarope (fălˈərōpˌ) [key], common name for members of the family Phalaropodidae, shore birds, called "little swimming sandpipers." Phalaropes, small, dainty birds with webbed toes, are the most aquatic of the shore bird group. They are unusual in that the female is larger and more brightly colored than the male and is the aggressor in courtship, while the male builds the cup-shaped nest on open tundra, and incubates the eggs, which number three to five per clutch. Their plumage is thick and ducklike; they float buoyantly and swim expertly, dipping their slender bills into the water for food. The Wilson's phalarope, Steganopus tricolor, is the only member of the family that nests in the United States, breeding in marshes of the Great Plains. The northern and red phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus and P. julicarus, respectively, breed in the Arctic and winter in the S Atlantic. Phalaropes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Phalaropodidae.
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