An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Black-Necked Grebe
Apr 27, 2017 10:31AM
By Paul Spear
This Week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Black-Necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), known in
North America as the eared grebe. It is a member of the grebe family of water birds and occurs on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
It is a common grebe of freshwater lakes in the west. Gregarious at all seasons, it nests in dense colonies, and sometimes congregates in huge numbers on lakes during migration and winter. Probably as an adaptation to life in the arid west, it is flexible in distribution, quickly taking advantage of temporary or man-made new bodies of water.It forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by feet, and also takes many insects
and other items from the surface of water. it’s diet is mostly insects and crustaceans, feeding on insects (such as aquatic beetles, dragonfly larvae, flies, mayflies), crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, and a few small fish. During an autumn stopover on large alkaline lakes, it may feed mainly on brine shrimp. Young are fed mainly on insects. Like other grebes, it sometimes eats feathers.
Mothers usually lay 3-5, rarely 1-6 eggs. Whitish at first, they become nest-stained brown. Incubation (by both sexes) is about 21 days. Young leave the nest after the last egg hatches, and are tended and fed by both parents. Adults may separate, each taking part of the brood.
Young may ride on parents' backs when small. Chicks may be independent by 21 days after hatching, but the age at first flight is not well known. There is one brood per year, rarely 2.
Courtship displays are complex. The male and female may swim side by side while turning their heads and calling loudly, facing each other while rearing up out of water and turning their heads from side to side. At the climax of the display the pair may rear up to vertical position and rush across surface of water side by side. Their nest is built by both sexes, a floating platform of weeds, anchored to standing vegetation in shallow water.
Populations generally stable, but vulnerable because large numbers depend on just a few major lakes at some seasons (such as Great Salt Lake, Mono Lake, Salton Sea).
Look for this handsome bird with it’s bright red eyes in our own Tijuana Estuary along the many trails there. Happy birding!
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