Weed Ceremony

Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii) in Weed Ceremony

These big grebes — both Clark’s and Western — have an elaborate set of courtship rituals. One of them is on display in the video; it’s called the Weed Ceremony. Here, actually, it’s a one-sided ritual, as only one of the birds has a beakful of seaweed, and the other doesn’t. It’s the human equivalent of giving your crush a Valentine’s Day card and not getting one in return. Unrequited advances seemed common in the courting games these birds were playing as I watched. Sometimes four birds lined up, with one dipping its head, checking to see which other bird dipped in return. If none did, the initial mover would paddle off. Then the remaining three went through various trials and errors before two of them clicked and danced off doing synchronized neck motions for a bit, but usually not for long. An itchy feather that required preening had priority over synchronized dancing, and so the pair parted. Courtship engaged only a small handful of the more than a hundred big grebes that have been sitting on the North Basin waters for the past couple of weeks. Most of them snoozed.

Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii) in Weed Ceremony

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