This post is for everyone who was at Riverlands on Saturday, 3 Nov., and saw the phalarope, which Matt Rowe spotted and I identified as a Red-necked Phalarope. In fact, the bird was a RED PHALAROPE, as shown by some of the photographs obtained. The two most important points are these:
1) The bill was not the ultra-thin, needlelike bill of a Red-necked. This is why field guides refer to it as "thick" -- because it's thick compared to that of a Red-necked. I misjudged it.
2) Field guides also show Red Phalarope in basic (non-breeding) plumage as having plain light gray upperparts, while Red-necked is dark with pale narrow lines down the back. This bird actually did have some sizeable patches of plain light gray coming in on the back (unlike any Red-necked), but they were bordered all around by a good deal of dark feathering, with a dark line crossing through them, creating an overall dark impression at a distance. In other words, its molt to basic plumage was under way but incomplete.
Both of these features are clearly visible in the closest photos, taken by Jim Malone and viewable in his list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49657458. My thanks to Jim for allowing me to post this link. Other differences from Red-necked are very subtle and depend largely on a direct comparison between the two.
Red Phalarope is the rarest of the three phalaropes in Missouri; it is casual in spring (6 records) and rare in fall (fewer than 20 records). Documentation is still requested for all sightings. I believe this is only the second record for Riverlands, the first having been found over 20 years ago in early June by Charlene Malone. So, by typical birding criteria, this is a "better" record than I thought.
Request of everyone who entered this bird in an eBird list as Red-necked Phalarope: Please delete that entry and re-enter as Red Phalarope! Your eBird reviewers will appreciate this. I apologize for the confusion and the necessity to change an entry.
ABA Birding Code of Ethics
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