This little water bird, dressed in a motley brown, gives no clue to its amazing powers. It’s the only species to survive in its genus, and it can do things that would make its cousin grebes envious, if grebes experienced envy. There’s its beak, not long, but very strong. It can easily crush crayfish and other crustaceans. It makes short work of fish, frogs, and other proteins in its path. Most amazing is its control over its buoyancy. Almost unique among birds, it can readily squeeze out the air in its feathers and in its internal air sacs, allowing it to submerge slowly and silently in the water without doing a headfirst dive, like other grebes and all ducks must do. It can swim underwater with just its head exposed, like a submarine with a periscope. Its feet are not webbed like a duck’s but equipped with pockets like a rail, such as our familiar American Coot. So equipped, it can dive to 30 feet and stay down half a minute if it chooses. Here in the video, taken off the north edge of the park, it’s chugging along on the surface like a conventional water bird. But don’t be fooled — this bird is special!
- Spring Weeding
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