Odd Grebe

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Near the end of the long train of Greater Scaup that had just flown in, there paddled a very odd-looking scaup. With all the wave motion and wind pressure I had a bit of a struggle to get it framed and focused. Then it resolved: not a scaup at all, but one of the small grebes. Checking back here on the differences between the very similar Eared Grebe and Horned Grebe, I ventured to call it a Horned Grebe. And I’m stickin’ to it. This bird has a gray crown that extends to the bottom of the eye, and it does not have the brownish/grey cheek patch that the Eared Grebe shows. Also, its beak has a slight downward tilt at the tip. This bird is obviously in its dull winter plumage; the breeding dress is much more colorful.

Horned Grebes are said to have solitary habits, but are sometimes found keeping company with flocks of other ducks, such as Surf Scoters and, here, the scaup. Like these other ducks, they dive and propel themselves underwater with their feet. They’ll eat whatever bite-size protein comes their way, plus the occasional vegetable matter.

I particularly liked the way this bird launched itself into the air to commence a dive.

More about them: Cornell Wikipedia Audubon In Chavez Park

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