A Grebe’s Neck

Clark’s Grebe

This Clark’s Grebe was one of 21 similar grebes on the water, and occasionally under it, in the North Basin within range of the Open Circle viewpoint.  A few of them appeared to be Western Grebes, having the dark head stripe covering the eye.  It was hard to get a species count because most of them were asleep, with their heads tucked into their back feathers.  This bird was wide awake and busy preening.  As it did so, it answered the question: How does a bird with a long neck preen the upper part of that neck?  The prime preening tool is the beak.  The bird can’t reach the back of its head with its beak.  Another  option would seem to be scratching with the feet.  I’ve seen various ducks do that, vigorously.

Earlier, I saw what the Brown Pelicans did.  They rubbed their necks against their backs.  Well, as this short video shows, the grebes seem to have the same idea.  This one rubbed its head, one side at a time, vigorously against its wing feathers.

This leaves open the question, why don’t they help one another?  Monkeys pick lice out of each others’ fur. There are also many examples of one species grooming another, like some birds cleaning up cattle, little fish cleaning up big fish, and so on.  It seemed to me that the Tundra Swans helped each other out with this problem.  Not these grebes.  They’re solitary groomers.  There’s twenty of them in close proximity but not a one comes over and lends a beak.



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