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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Sep 2, 2010

Rednecked Grebe

Red Necked Grebe
The Red-necked Grebe is not a bird that I see very often in a given year, but this one has visited the pond near my work regularly for the past few years.  Usually he doesn't stay long.  This year however he stayed for several weeks in August, and since I have never seen more than one Red-necked Grebe visit this particular pond at one time, I am assuming that this is a single bird that simply returns to visit.  

I have of course seen Red-necked Grebe at other man made ponds in Edmonton.  This year I  even saw a mated pair with their off spring.  Unfortunately when I saw them, they were too far in the distance for good pictures.  The pond where they nested is one I don't frequent very often, so I didn't get another chance this year to take pictures of the little ones, but I certainly plan on revisiting that pond next year around the same time.

Minnows in the pond
Red-necked grebes are diving birds that feed on water beetles, dragonfly larvae, crayfish, mollusks and fish.  There are many fish in the pond near my work, as you can see in this picture above.  These are just the minnows however.

In the next picture below, you will see that this Grebe has had a very successful hunt.  Just look at the size of that fish, it almost looks too large for him to deal with, although he does.  It was his unusual behavior that prompted me to take this picture.  He was thrashing around and shaking his head from side to side when he caught it.  In fact he dropped it once or twice, I think in an effort to better position the fish in his bill for swallowing, but in the end he had to break the fish up in order to eat it.

Red Necked Grebe with large fish

Red Necked Grebe under water
As happens often with the birds I see, it was his loud, quite distinctive voice that got my attention.   It sounds similar to that of a loon.  I remember wondering why I would hear a Loon in the middle of the city until I finally spotted him.

I have observed that Red-necked Grebes are excellent swimmers and divers who navigate the water with the aid of their lobed feet.  In the picture, above, I managed to captured this Grebe coming up from beneath the water, which was kind of neat.  However, what is important here is that, because I happened to be above him, I got a first hand view of how they use their feet to propel themselves through, and change direction in the water.  I found out through my research that they use their feet, because their tail is simply too short to use for purpose of propulsion.

Coming up

I have yet to see this bird in flight, and have never seen in it on shore.   That's likely because, like all grebe species, their legs are set too far back beneath them to make comfortable walking on shore, as you can clearly see in the photo above.  In fact, they build their nest close to the water's edge, using aquatic plant material.  Once their young are hatched they immediately take to the water, although, I have learned, that the Red-necked Grebe will sometimes carry their young on their back.  I'd love to be able to witness that someday.

Red necked grebe shaking water off

Since my first sighting of the Red-necked Grebe I have discovered that they prefer relatively calm and shallow water.  Their habitat is likely to be marsh, fish ponds and fresh water lakes.  In the fall they migrate towards the coast and no doubt the marshes there. This particular one disappeared  late in August one night.

If you wish to learn more about this very interesting  bird just follow the links as usual:



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