“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16 KJV)
Pied-Billed Grebe at Lake Hollingsworth, Lakeland, FL by Dan
“The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” (Psalms 111:2 KJV)
Our inspirations today come from the Podicipedidae Family, which is the only family in the Podicipediformes Order. All 23 species are called a Grebe. [This is a switch from many families.] Within the family there six genera: Tachybaptus (6), Podilymbus (2), Rollandia (2), Poliocephalus (2), Podiceps (9) and the Aechmophorus (2). Of these species, three have become extinct; the Alaotra Grebe, Atitlan Grebe, and the Colombian Grebe. “Grebes are a widely distributed order of freshwater diving birds, some of which visit the sea when migrating and in winter.”
As I start this article, we have only seen about three or four of these family members. The most popular in this area is the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). All About Birds had these two “Cool Facts“:
“The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.
Pied-billed Grebe [and other Grebe] chicks typically leave the nest the first day after hatching and spend much of their first week riding around on a parent’s back. They usually spend most of their first 3 weeks on or near the nest platform.”
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) by Ian 4
Grebes are small to medium-large in size, have lobed toes, and are excellent swimmers and divers. Although they can run for a short distance, they are prone to falling over, since they have their feet placed far back on the body. Bills vary from short and thick to long and pointed, depending on the diet, which ranges from fish to freshwater insects and crustaceans. The feet are always large, with broad lobes on the toes and small webs connecting the front three toes. The hind toe also has a small lobe. Recent experimental work has shown that these lobes work like the hydrofoil blades of a propeller.
Grebes have narrow wings, and some species are reluctant to fly; indeed, two South American species are completely flightless. They respond to danger by diving rather than flying, and are in any case much less wary than ducks. Extant species range in size from the least grebe, at 120 grams (4.3 oz) and 23.5 cm (9.3 inches), to the great grebe, at 1.7 kg (3.8 lbs) and 71 cm (28 inches).
The North American and Eurasian species are all, of necessity, migratory over much or all of their ranges, and those species that winter at sea are also seen regularly in flight. Even the small freshwater pied-billed grebe of North America has occurred as a transatlantic vagrant to Europe on more than 30 occasions.
Tachybaptus is a genus of small members of the grebe family birds. The genus name is from Ancient Greek takhus “fast” and bapto “to sink under”. It has representatives over much of the world, including the tropics.
is a genus of birds in the Podicipedidae family, containing the extinct Atitlán grebe (Podilymbus gigas) and the pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).The genus name is derived from Latin Podilymbus, a contraction of podicipes (“feet at the buttocks”, from podici-, “rump-” + pes, “foot”)—the origin of the name of the grebe order—and Ancient Greek kolymbos, “diver”.
Poliocephalus is a small genus of birds in the grebe family. Its two members are found in Australia and New Zealand. They are: Hoary-headed Grebe (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) and New Zealand Grebe (Poliocephalus rufopectus).
Podiceps is a genus of birds in the grebe family. The genus name comes from Latin podicis, “vent” and pes, “foot”, and is a reference to the placement of a grebe’s legs towards the rear of its body.It has representatives breeding in Europe, Asia, North, and South America. Most northern hemisphere species migrate in winter to the coast or warmer climates.
Aechmophorus is a genus of birds in the grebe family. It has two living representatives breeding in western North America; the Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and Clark’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii).
The western grebe has a straight bill with a dull green-yellow color as opposed to the Clark’s grebe, which has a slightly upturned, bright orange-yellow bill. In both species the male has a longer and deeper bill than that of the female, making it a distinguishing feature. All species of grebes display the pattern of lobed feet. A tough skin surrounds each toe separately, providing more surface area for effective swimming. This form increases the power of propulsion per stroke and reduces drag when the bird is recovering.
Western and Clark’s grebes take part in a courtship display known as mate feeding. This occurs regularly between a mated pair during the period prior to hatching of nestlings. In both species mate feeding appears to peak shortly before egg laying and involves the male providing large quantities of food to the begging female. Pairs will also engage in a spectacular display, by rearing up and “rushing” across the surface of the water side by side, making a loud pattering sound with their feet.
“He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” (Psalms 111:4 KJV)
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Little Grebe ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 7/22/12
When I was in Dublin – I’m now back home in North Queensland – and we were waiting for the arrival of my niece’s baby, we used to take the dogs for a walk in nearby Bushy Park along the River Dodder. In the park, there is a large artificial pond with an island and I soon found this Little Grebe or ‘Dabchick’ patiently incubating eggs on her nest.
Grebes are usually fairly shy, so a nesting one is a good photo opportunity as they build their floating nests in the open in shallow water. The nest is anchored to submerged vegetation and branches and the fact that it is floating gives it some protection from changing water levels after rain, for example. The second photo was taken on the 26 June, the day when my niece’s daughter finally arrived.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) by Ian 2
It was a while before I could check the progress of the Little Grebe again and when we returned on the 9th June, third photo, the nest had vanished and, as there had been some bad weather in the meantime, I feared the worst. Both adults were still present but there was no obvious sign of any chicks. However, if you look carefully at this bird, you’ll see that the left wing is slightly raised and not folded flat.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) by Ian 3
The reason for this became clear when the bird turned around, revealing a chick carefully tucked away under the wing.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) by Ian 4
The fourth photo was taken on the same day. We returned again 4 days later and I saw only the one adult and no chick but there is plenty of cover around the island and I may have missed it.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) by Ian 5
Any Australian birders would immediately notice the similarity between the Eurasian Little Grebe and the Australasian Grebe. They can be distinguished in breeding plumage by the amount of rufous on the neck, throat and breast. These are rufous in the Little Grebe (hence the specific name ruficollis) but the throat and breast of the Australasian Grebe are black as in the fifth photo. Other distinguishing field marks are the yellow, rather than reddish-brown, iris and the greater amount of white under the tail of the Australasian Grebe, though the latter is not evident in this photo.
Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) by Ian
These are fairly trivial differences and for a long time the two were treated as conspecific. However, the ranges of the two overlap in New Guinea (are ‘sympatric’) and it is usual to treat them as separate species with the Little Grebe being widespread throughout Eurasia and Africa and the Australasian Grebe occurring in New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Check the latest website updates: http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates
I love the photos of the little one riding under the wing of the parent. Of course that brings to mind several verses.
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, (Psalms 17:8 KJV)
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. (Psalms 36:7 KJV)
He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. (Psalms 91:4 NKJV)
We see the Pied-billed Grebe and the Horned Grebe here. It would be neat to see those two that Ian had the privilege of seeing. The Grebes belong to the Podicipedidae family. There are 23 Grebes worldwide.