The phalaropes are such unusual shorebirds — with their swimming and spinning habits, and with females much more brightly colored than males — that in the past, they were often considered to make up a family of their own. More recent studies have firmly established their place among the sandpiper family. But from the birder’s standpoint, they’re still unique.
Two of the species, Red Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope, nest on high Arctic tundra and winter out at sea. The third species, Wilson’s Phalarope, nests in marshes in the interior of North America and winters on lakes in South America. It’s the most distinctive member of a unique group.