Foam Lake Birding No. 156

No. 156
            With the plentiful rains these past several summers our sloughs are full and many have not dried out by the late summer.  These conditions are ideal for water birds that require permanent bodies of water during the breeding and rearing season. 
            One group of such birds are the grebes.  They are entirely aquatic birds whose legs are set so far back that walking on land is very difficult and in two cases, impossible.  Even their nests are floating platforms that are anchored to rushes to prevent their floating away.  Although much of what will be said here was mentioned in a previous article a recap is probably in order. 
            There are several characteristics that separate grebes from other waterfowl like ducks, coots and loons.  First, although the birds are entirely aquatic their feet are not webbed but lobed like that of coots.  Second, all young are striped longitudinally in black and white.  They remind me of little zebras.  Third, the young often ride on their mother's backs.  Fourth, the young cannot feed themselves so both parents actively feed their young like song birds do.  Fifth, grebes are divers and usually catch their prey like minnows under water.  Sixth, their bills are sharply pointed except for the Pied Billed Grebe (see Article No. 53).  Several other species of birds share one or several of the above characteristics but not all of them. 
            Our second largest grebe, the Red Necked, is quite common locally on larger sloughs and lakes.  This teal sized diver is greyish with a chestnut red neck and striking white face topped off with a black cap and slight crest.  The white face is more noticeable than the red neck and perhaps the bird should have been called the "White Faced Grebe".  Just a thought.  Males and females are the same. 
            This week's photos were taken at two different times in two different places.  The lone grebe was photographed north of Humboldt; the mother with the two young were photographed by Tuffnell.  The picture of the mother and young is not as clear as I would have liked but it does show the colours of the swimming youngster.  If one looks closely another youngster can be seen riding on the mother's back.  The young certainly are cute.