The Bird with the Jellybean Eye


The Horned Grebe that I saw last month in the company of the Surf Scoters has reappeared. Whether it went elsewhere and came back or whether it’s been here the whole time I can’t say, as I was away for a week.  I saw it near sunset yesterday swimming quietly just south of the Open Circle promontory.  The low angle of the sun made its eye seem to stand out and glow. No other birds were near it, and no other birds could be seen in the water farther out in the North Basin.  

According to the Cornell bird lab website, these birds commonly feed solo.  They are not intensely gregarious.  But it’s unusual to see one this far south during the breeding season.  Normally they go north in the summer, thriving in Canada as far as sub-arctic regions.  Whether this individual is a delayed migrator or intends to spend the summer here remains to be seen.

The population of these birds is in trouble.  Wikipedia says:

The global population has been declined by 30% over the last three decades and by 79% within North America.[5] This is due primarily to human disturbanceforestry operations around breeding sites, fluctuating water levels, and stocking of lakes with rainbow trout that compete for aquatic insects.[6] They are also frequently caught in nets, vulnerable to oil spills and diseases.[5][6] Within 1985 and 2001, grassland and wetland drainage amounted to 5% global habitat loss.[5] The Canadian western population is listed as special concern and the breeding population on Magdalene Islands is listed as endangered.[5] Due to global declines, the Horned Grebe has been unlisted from least concern to vulnerable resulting in conservation and research action plans.[2]

 

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