Thursday, December 8, 2011

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebes (Podiceps auritus) summer in western Canada and winter in the southeastern United States, passing through Michigan during Spring and Fall migration. This one was diving for food on Lake Michigan near the mouth of the St Joseph River, last week.

Grebes were once called Helldivers since they tended to disappear under the water at signs of danger, rather than fly away. While they look like ducks, the two families are not closely related. Grebes have narrow bills and their feet are lobed, rather than webbed.

The grebe pictured here is in its black-and-white winter plumage. The Horned Grebe's breeding colors are strikingly different, chestnut and black with a distinctive yellow tuft behind the eye that makes the "horn".

The Eared Grebe has a similar winter look, although I think they are less common in Michigan.

Horned Grebes are also found in Europe, where they are sometimes known as Slavonian Grebes.

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