Red-necked phalarope (Odinshühnchen) in breeding plumage,
photograph by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters *
The red-necked phalarope is an extraordinary bird and a real wanderer between the worlds and above the sea of fog although it is not really big (length of 19 cms). The photo above shows the outlook during breeding, in autumn and winter the plumage will change to a simple white/grey. However, it needs to be pointed out that gender roles are completely different while the male birds are breeding the eggs and also guiding afterwards the young birds while the female birds perform the courtship displays in order to attract the male birds and will as well protect the breeding site against external enemies. The birds are breeding from May until July all over the Northern arctic and subarctic hemisphere including Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway. During the rest of the year the birds are staying scattered over the tropical and subtropical oceans but also at the coastal side of Patagonia and the Southern part of Japan. The German name is a bit unusually weird Odinshühnchen (meaning literally Odin chicken) such making reference to the Northern & Scandinavian mythology – one of its glamorous homelands in the circle of the year.
Odin steals the Mead of Poetry while being chased by Suttungr,
illustration by , 18th century *
In the old North-European mythology ‘Edda’ the divinity Odin (German: Wodan) steals the Mead of Poetry in the shape of an eagle out of Suttungr’s cave. The Poetic Mead is a real magic beverage and, whoever drinks it, soon thereafter can recite any information and solve any question. While being chased by Suttungr, Odin spits the Mead of Poetry into several vessels. But the chase was so fierce, that some spits dropped backwards. Hence, anybody could now drink this part, and subsequently poetry was finally gifted to mankind by a single bird. Maybe this old saga was the background for naming the red-necked phalarope honourably in German Odinshühnchen?
Birdwatching excursion led by ornithologist Derk Ehlert
on Poel Peninsula/Baltic Sea in August 2016
In Central Europe the red-necked phalarope can only be discovered rarely during their passage to the South in August when making a rest in the German coastal region, sometimes as well in Austria at Lake Neusiedl. So in August 2016 I was really lucky to see an Odinshühnchen during an ornithological trip to Poel Peninsula/Baltic sea led by Derk Ehlert in large distance on an inland-pond which is one of their preferred sites. But you need of course a very good binoculars / spotting scope for such purpose and without an experienced guide who knows where to look you will never have such a chance. But such excursions require more than that: to some extent a strong will for “self-torturing” such as standing still for long time quietly just waiting or looking and what is even worse usually no stop at a nice coffee-shop the whole day. Therefore, I can not join such events so often although it is always nice and interesting.
Bird house fixed on our home’s balcony in Berlin, January 2009
But birdwatching is also possible at home more comfortable. On our Eastern side balcony, birds are regular visitors especially in autumn and winter. In this regard the behaviour of great tits (German: Kohlmeise) is remarkable because at least one of them likes very much to sit on the epalier of a rose plant watching us sitting at the computer or elsewhere. This quite familiar situation is really an active kind of curious human watching by this bird, and I hear the bird speaking: “Hello, nice to be here, thank you & see you soon again.” Birds are magical beings because even the smaller species do have sometimes a clear poetical message for us, we must only listen to their coherent polyphonic daily concert.
© transmutation.me (2016) * royalty-free for common use