North Side Grebes

Horned Grebes (Podiceps auritus)

During the two-hour midday gap in last Monday’s rain storm, the rain ceased but the chill southerly breeze kept blowing. On the north side of the park, the embankment created a bit of wind shelter. In that space I saw a Horned Grebe chugging along and diving frequently. A bit later, a second one appeared from the west. This one was mainly busy preening. They kept tens of yards apart and didn’t seem to notice one another. Males and females look alike, so it’s anyone’s guess whether they were, or had been during the recent breeding season, a pair. Their breeding territory lies in eastern Alaska and west-central Canada, so these birds have probably flown something close to 2,000 miles to get here. They’re carnivores, or more exactly fish eaters, by preference, but will also take insects, crustaceans, worms and other protein. They’re good divers that can hunt midwater or scrape the bottom down to 15 or 20 feet. We’re seeing the winter plumage in these birds. When breeding, they grow a spectacular headdress and ruddy flanks; photographer James Kusz caught a pair of them here in April last year (“Horned and Eared,” April 19 2020).

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

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