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New Phalarope Working Group Established
Wednesday August 7, 2019   |
A female Wilsonís Phalarope in breeding plumage; female phalaropes are more colorful than males.
A migrating flock of Wilsonís Phalaropes (photos by Paul Konrad).

A new shorebird working group has been established – the International Phalaropes Working Group – and participants met recently adjacent to Mono Lake, an important concentration area for Wilson’s Phalaropes and Red-necked Phalaropes. The group discussed the primary threats these species are facing and defined priority research and conservation actions needed to ensure these birds’ future. The most important outcome of the meeting was the creation of the Working Group, motivated by a shared interest: The conservation of phalaropes and their habitats.

The meeting was organized by Ryan Carle from the non-profit organization Oikonos and Margaret Rubega from the University of Connecticut, both of whom have conducted research on these two species of phalaropes along the shore of Mono Lake. The group of researchers and members of 15 government agencies and 18 organizations from across the Americas unanimously agreed that the primary need for Wilson’s Phalaropes and Red-necked Phalaropes is to fill the information gaps that currently exist for both species. Unlike other shorebirds, phalaropes are a highly aquatic group, and without certainty about key aspects of their ecology – such as current population trends, primary foods during different periods of their annual cycle, migration timing and primary migration stopover sites – it is difficult to determine what immediate conservation actions will benefit phalarope populations.

Much of the discussion at the meeting was focused on how to address these challenges, which was very productive due to the varied expertise of professionals in the group, each contributing different perspectives. The working group agreed on seven primary actions:

* 1) Create an international network, with shared study protocols

* 2) Work to determine the current population status of both species

* 3) Coordinate consistent censuses to estimate abundance at different sites, and work to improve statistical confidence in the estimates

* 4) Coordinate simultaneous counts across the Western Hemisphere

* 5) Generate and manage a shared database

* 6) Work to create a MOTUS detection network to better understand phalarope migration, residence times, and turnover rates at different sites

* 7) Continue to conduct research on key aspects of phalaropes’ annual life cycle, including habitat selection, diet composition, and the impact of different threats each species faces.

For more information about the International Phalaropes Working Group see https://whsrn.org/international-phalaropes-working-group/

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