The Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus, is a long distance migratory wader that breeds in the Arctic Tundra and spend their winters on the tropical waters off Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo. The females are more brightly colored than the males and takes no part in raising its young, a reversal to the norm.
Part of the main flock of 11 Red-necked Phalaropes that spend their winter at sea.
It is an accident visitor to Singapore with a winter bird seen at the Tuas flooded grasslands from 16-25 November 1994. This was my only national first record.
We have to wait for another seventeen years before another was seen foraging in the Straits of Singapore on 17 April 2011 during a NSS Pelagic Survey. Coincidentally I was on board on this trip.
The lobed toes of the right feet that helps them to paddle themselves on water can be seen in this photo.
On 8 October 2016, Frankie Cheong photographed a moulting juvenile to winter plumage at a freshwater puddle at the reclaimed land at Pulau Tekong, our second land record.
In flight the upper white wing bar stands out.
Last Saturday 28 September 2019, we came across a floating flock of 14 juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes again at the Straits of Singapore, north of Batam. My hattrick! This is the first multiple sighting of this vagrant.
They were busy feeding among the floating sea grasses, paddling around in small circles with their lobed feet. This unique habit helps to stir up the marine invertebrates up to the center for easy pickings.
Our first multiple sightings as all the past three were single birds.
With this record and hopefully more in the years to come, we may be able to reclassified their status from vagrant to a rare winter visitor.
Reference: Wild Bird Society of Japan. A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.