Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Floating Nest of Feathered Friends

The pied-billed grebe is a common bird with some uncommon behaviors. For example, it is always surprising to see a grebe squeeze the water out of its feathers and simply submerge, without a ripple.

 A mother feeding her young is not surprising.

However, offering the young bird a feather seems odd.

The chick appears to share the sentiment. All About Birds suggests that grebes consume feathers to create an internal filter which stops large, hard objects from entering and harming their intestines.

The chick's zebra-like facial stripes seem unusual…

 especially when compared to the simple and sedate coloring of the parent's face.

Maybe the stripes are one of nature's ways of hiding the young birds.

Difficulty focusing on the chick's features and shape may confuse predators. 

Last week there were four young birds in this floating nest in Duck Bay. 

This week there was only one young bird left. It appears predators are not easily confused. Still, the parents must be given credit for their protective efforts.

Not all birds will carry their young on their backs...

…and hide them under their wings.

Most birds will build nests...

…but the grebes continued to bring material to hide the nest even after the young have hatched.

The male is not just concerned with predators, he also protects their territory from competitors.

His posturing includes lifting his wings to look larger…

…stretching to his full height and thrashing the water…

…verbal discourse…

,,,and general intimidation. The males parted ways without inflicting any apparent damage. Still it was clear a line had been drawn and a boundary defined.

Catching their food is another challenge and responsibility for the parents but…

…passing the food to the young bird and then watching it struggle to control and eat the fish must be especially difficult.

Often the young bird would drop the fish and the parents would have to catch it again and bring it back for another attempt.

Parenting is the hardest, and the most rewarding, work we ever do...

…whether we are human or grebe.

Have a great day on Union Bay…where nature nests in the city!



  1. Thanks once more, Larry, for your excellent posts!

  2. You are welcome! I am glad you enjoy them. :-)

  3. I'm such a sucker for images of baby birds tucked under their mama's (or papa's) feathers. :) Beautiful!

    1. Thank you. I suspect under the wings is the next best (and safest) place to be, after the egg.

  4. Larry, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to not only follow and photograph the wild life in our arboretum but to take the time to share with us their names and habits. I so appreciate your work.

    1. You are welcome! It is always a joy, but especially in the spring when the young are hatching out everywhere you look! :-)