Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus in breeding plumage with offspring
Meet the Horned Grebe, a migratory bird that can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. They breed far, far inland during the summer months, and during the winter they hang out further south along the ocean coasts.

When it comes time to breed, Horned Grebes are unmistakable. They have fantastic summer plumage with bright reddish feathers, a dark head, and huge light puffy tufts over their eyes. Those puffs give them their "horned" name. During the winter months they are far less colorful, sporting black and white feathers with no tufts.

Winter Plumage
Feathers play an important role in Horned Grebe digestion. Adults actually eat some of their own feathers in order to create an internal plug. This plug serves as a filter to keep bones and other slower digesting materials in the stomach longer. Parents even feed feathers to their babies to get this plug started!

And while we are on the topic of baby Grebes, did you know that they often ride along on their parents' backs while swimming? And because the adults usually feed on critters that they find underwater, this means the little ones get to go on dives too!

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Europe, Asia, North America
Size : Length up to 15in (38cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Podicipediformes
Family : Podicipedidae -- Genus : Podiceps -- Species : P. auritus

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