Wayne Rundell Photography | Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe

March 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

This image of an Eared Grebe is the last in the Grebe mini-series. I have captured four different Grebe species so far in the Chequamegon Bay area and this photo is the most current of the four and one of those moments that I will not forget. I was in one of my favorite locations last May trying to photograph the many Spotted Sandpipers that were scurrying about when I happened to spot a bird land in the water a couple hundred feet away. At first I did not pay any attention to it since I was bound and determined to capture a great image of one of the Sandpipers. After an hour of uncooperative birds, I started to look for the distance bird. At first, I thought it may have flown away, but after scanning the waters edge a little closer, I spotted the bird feeding. Once I had gotten a better look, I thought I was seeing a Horned Grebe but quickly realized this was different. I had not seen an Eared Grebe in the wild before, so this took a while to sink in. Wow... an Eared Grebe! So now I had to figure out how to get closer to the bird without spooking it. My first move was to wade out into Chequamegon Bay and circle around to get some cover between me and the bird. Now I crouched behind some vegetation and watched. Lucky for me the Grebe started to dive underwater searching for food so after timing how long the bird was underwater during a typical dive, I waited until it dove under and I ran across some open ground to get into position next to some brush. During the next couple of dives I was able to get my camera set up on the tripod in front of me and my camo cloth pulled over me. So now I was all set and all I had to do was wait to see if the bird would come close enough. After watching for an hour the Grebe suddenly dove under and when it came back up to the surface, it was right in front of me and the camera. The following image is the result:

Cool Facts (credit - allaboutbirds.org)

  • At its fall staging areas, the Eared Grebe more than doubles its weight. The pectoral (chest) muscles shrink to the point of flightlessness, the digestive organs grow significantly, and great fat deposits accumulate. Then before departure for migration, the digestive organs shrink back to about one-fourth their peak size and the heart and pectoral muscles grow quickly.

  • A cycle similar to that of the fall staging areas occurs three to six times each year for the Eared Grebe. For perhaps nine to ten months each year the species is flightless; this is the longest flightless period of any bird in the world capable of flight at all.
  • The Eared Grebe migrates only at night. Because of the length of its fall staging, its southward fall migration is the latest of any bird species in North America.
  • On cold, sunny mornings, the Eared Grebe, like some other grebe species, sunbathes by facing away from the sun and raising its rump, exposing dark underlying skin to light. This behavior may make the bird appear to have a distinctive "high-stern" profile.


Male Eared Grebe in Breeding Plumage:



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