A Grebe Adventure

9:14 PM

I had an interesting bird experience today that I wanted to share.  As a birder and naturalist sometimes I get calls from friends and family about their wildlife encounters.  Today I got one of those calls.

My Uncle called me today, to tell me that he had a strange bird in his backyard.  The bird was sitting by their fence and not moving much.  He described the bird over the phone as duck-like, with shorter legs, a yellow bill, white belly and gray back.  I assumed that the bird was most likely some kind of misplaced domestic duck, as their house is on a fairly typical urban street with a large, but fairly standard backyard.  I was a little puzzled by a duck being in his backyard when they don't have any access to water, but it wasn't totally out of the question.  When I got to their house to have a look at the bird I was shocked at what I saw…

What is that by the fence?

…a Red-necked Grebe.  My uncle was spot-on with the markings, as the bird was in its winter plumage.  The grebe was sitting on top of the snow beside their fence.  I took a few photos and approached the bird slowly.  It moved slightly when I approached; but didn’t go too far.   

A Red-necked Grebe!

I called a couple of friends to get their opinions on the matter and concluded that the bird probably couldn’t take flight off of the snow.  So, I needed to capture the bird and take it to open water, where these birds spend most of their lives.  After checking that our local lake still had open water, I put on some gloves and approached the bird.  I threw a towel over the grebe and gently grabbed the bird restraining the wings.  

Red-necked Grebe

Once captured, I took off the towel to make sure the bird looked healthy.  It then managed to quickly nip my nose with its long beak (nice aim!), even while I was holding it neck.  Their neck is deceptively long and can stretch out quite far.   After capturing the bird, I put it inside of a box with some towels and drove to our local lake.  

Red-necked Grebe

When I got out of the car I was greeted by about 30 mallards which were hanging out in the open water.  I walked a few steps into the water and placed the grebe down gently in the water.  It was gone before I blinked and immediately began diving and swimming as grebes do, like nothing had happened in the first place.  

Red-necked Grebe

What an amazing experience it was.  I never thought I would have the opportunity to be that close to such an amazing bird.  

Holding the grebe just after capture

Holding the grebe just after capture

Check out those lobed feet!!!

Good Birding!!

~ Kristen Martyn

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6 comments

  1. Great job Kristen!! The grebe I rescued had to have the ice thawed off of its wings before it could be released. It was tiny and was mostly feet! LOL

    Here's to grebe rescues!!

    Lori

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    1. Kind of funny it happened to us both in the same week Lori! Their feet are so amazing.

      Cheers to Grebes!

      Kristen

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  2. Nice save Kristen! RN Grebe would have been a life bird for me :-P

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    1. Thanks Dwayne! If I had know it was a lifer for ya I would have given you a call ;) They are relatively simple to spot in Toronto where they nest on the water. I know its a bit far for you, but if your in the area I can show you!

      Kristen

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  3. Kristen, thanks! I would love to go to Toronto in early June and visit Carden Alvar and possibly the Leslie St Spit. I'm slowly realizing that Toronto has some amazing spots within a three hour driving range. Keep up the great blogging! :)

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    1. Those are all great spots Dwayne. Let me know when you come. I'd be up for a few adventures. Last year we had a Yellow Rail up at Carden which was awesome!

      Kristen

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