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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

May 14, 2010

Horned Grebe

Oh happy day!!!

I visited a place I had never been before today and not only did I see two species of hawks hunting the area, I also got many pictures of small birds which are totally unfamiliar to me, and baby geese.  The highlight of my day however, was the sight two Horned Grebe, aka Slovenian Grebe. They have been granted  other names over time, among them devil diver.  They are remarkably beautiful,  especially when displaying their breeding plumage.

Horned Grebe pair
When you first see them from a distance, the Horned Grebe seems  to stick out only  due to its  brownish color and because they tend to disappear  beneath the water.   However, a closer view of this bird  shows just  how striking its features are.  I was lucky enough that both birds were relatively close to me when I first arrived on the scene, and that neither seems to be shy of humans, as they were not bothered in the least by either my presence or the sound of my camera.  In fact they continued to come closer as I stood there taking these pictures.

Horned Grebe in the distance
The Horned Grebe, as it turns out, is usually a much plainer color.  That is black and white, and it's only striking color is it's red eyes.  As you can see by these pictures, this is not the case during mating season, when its plumage makes a drastic and beautiful transformation. The normally gray tufts on the side of the head that stick up like horns are now a beautiful gold color, it's neck has become red, while its body is redish brown and it's back black.   The color of its eyes seems to also change from red to take on a more pink hue. In fact, their eyes tempt me to give them yet another, more suitable name  perhaps, like ruby for instance, because they really do stand  out.

Horned Grebe

This is what I have discovered about this bird so far.  The Horned Grebe's habitat range is all of Canada, the US, Europe and Asia.  It nests near the water's edge, usually among thick vegetation and sometimes in groups, and usually lays two to four eggs.  This bird, like all grebes has legs that are set too far back on the body, making it difficult  for it to walk well, which is why it spends much of its time on the water, and will sometimes carry it's young on it's back.  In the fall, usually in November, it migrates to the coast and open water.

Horned Grebe Close up

During the breeding  season this bird prefers vegetated areas near fresh water lakes, marshes, or ponds.  Like all divers, it typically feeds below the water's surface on fish and crustaceans.   It will also feed on insects at the water's surface however.  It is a small  bird about half  the size of a Mallard Duck, but it's call is loud and distinct, as is the case with other species of Grebe. During non-breeding season it migrates overland in stages to inhabit coastal shore lines.  Thankfully this bird is not an endangered or  threatened species.  As usual if you wish to learn more about this beauty just  follow the links:


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