Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eared Grebes

Podiceps nigricollis californicus, or Eared Grebe, is one of my favourite diving birds.  This Spring, we have a lot of them.    According to All About Birds: 
The most abundant grebe in the world, the Eared Grebe breeds in shallow wetlands in western North America. It occurs in greatest numbers on Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake in fall, where it doubles its weight in preparation for a nonstop flight to its wintering grounds in the southwestern United States and Mexico. 

This is what they look like in their Adult Summer (breeding) plumage.   The juveniles and adults in their wintering grounds don't look quite this spiffy - generally varying shades of dark grey.

Podiceps nigricollis is found on every continent except Austratlia and Antarctica.  In all those other, non-North American places, it is known as Black-necked Grebe.  From Wikipedia

The latter (name) was first used in 1912,  Ernst Hartert, in an effort to bring the common name of the species in line with its scientific name. The genus name of this species—Podiceps—comes from two Latin words: podicis, meaning "vent" or "anus" and pes meaning "foot". This is a reference to the attachment point of the bird's legs—at the extreme back end of its body. The specific epithet nigricollis is Latin for "black-necked": niger means "black" and collis means "neck". 

I also found this little tidbit in Wikipedia
Interestingly, the eared grebe is essentially flightless for most of the year (9 to 10 months), and serves as an example of one of the most inefficient flier among avifauna. Generally, this bird avoids flying at all costs and reserves long distance flight exclusively for migration. However, when migrating, it will travel as much as 6000 km to reach prosperous areas which are exploited by few other species. (Jehl Jr. et al., 2003)

[This grebe is] an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its prey underwater, eating mostly fish as well as small crustaceans, aquatic insects and larvae. It prefers to escape danger by diving rather than flying, although it can easily rise from the water. 

Follow the links for more info at All About Birds and Wikipedia.
Click on the pix for larger and clearer, if you want to.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pics! I love grebes! Saw lots on the weekend.