In Europe they are mostly seen in winter plumage; pale grey, with white underparts, a dark bill and thick black line through the eye. The lack of stripes on the back and the shorter, thicker bill distinguish them from Red-necked Phalaropes.
Summer adults are almost entirely red on their underparts (not just around the neck) and have a black and white head pattern with a mostly yellow bill.
They winter at sea, occurring closer to the shore in bad weather, sometimes even on coastal or inland pools.
An uncommon annual migrant, with numbers depending very much on the weather conditions. Most frequently seen off south-west coasts, especially after strong gales, usually in late autumn.