Red-Necked Grebe

(Podiceps grisegena). Patient Number 22-1118.

Date of admission: July 22, 2022.
Reason for admission: Orphaned.

Patient History:

Red-necked grebes are heavyset waterfowl, similar in size to a mallard, but with a longer neck and a thick pointed beak. Non-breeding birds are mostly dark grey above, with a brown neck, whitish throat, and long, mostly yellow bill. Male and female breeding adults are quite similar. Both have a rusty red chest and neck, with a black cap and sharply defined white cheeks. Immature red-necked grebes are similar to non-breeding adults but their head pattern is less distinct. Juveniles may also have stripes on their faces. A baby grebe is called a grebette. Red-necked grebe grebettes have a fuzzy brown body with defined black and white stripes on their heads and a pink patch of flesh just in front of their eyes

Red-necked grebes forage while swimming underwater, or while swimming on the surface with their heads submerged. These waterfowl eat mostly insects and fish, plus very small amounts of plant matter. Interestingly, the red-necked grebe ingests large quantities of its own feathers. The stomach retains two distinct balls of feathers, and their function is unknown. One hypothesis suggests that the feathers help protect the lower digestive tract from bones and other hard, indigestible material. The red-necked grebe also feeds its feathers to its young. Red-necked grebes are excellent swimmers, but poor fliers and walkers. Their legs are located on the back of their bodies, and as a result, Red-necked grebes are not good at maneuvering on shore and are prone to being grounded. In many cases, this is often when we receive them, as they are not able to run or fly away when approached.

In the non-breeding season, Red-necked grebes are generally quiet and found singly or in small, loose groups. During the nesting season, pairs perform elaborate, noisy courtship rituals and aggressively defend territories, even against other species of waterfowl. These birds can be found in numerous aquatic habitats during migration and the non-breeding season, from rivers to lakes, and bays to the open ocean; nesting birds select mostly larger lakes. The nesting site is in shallow water among marsh vegetation. Males and females work together to build the nest, which is a floating mass of plant material, with a definite depression at the top, anchored to standing plants. The mother lays 2-6 bluish-white or very pale buff eggs. Both sexes incubate for 20-23 days. The young are able to swim shortly after hatching; are fed by both parents, and may ride on parents' backs.

This red-necked grebe grebette was found alone with no other grebes around in the Crawling Valley Reservoir, Bassano. He/she was brought in on July 22, 2022 and we will care for them until they are healthy enough to be released. Red-necked grebes are not commonly brought in, and this is the only one we have received this year! He/she will spend time in one of our diving ponds to rest and rehydrate before being released. Thank you so much for supporting this grebe!

Red-Necked Grebe

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