Thursday, November 13, 2008

Of A Feather, Dancing Together

The two birds pictured are grebes, photographed locally at Lake Hodges, near Rancho Santa Fe, by Southern California wildlife photographer Chris Mayne.

Grebes are foot propelled diving birds, common in our local fresh waters. Their feet are placed so far back on their bodies that after running just a short distance, they fall over, and generally respond to danger by diving, not flying. They assemble their floating nests from plant material, which they hide amongst reeds along the shoreline and their young are able to swim from birth. They eat their own feathers when grooming and feed them to their young. Grebes have the ability to use their feathers to adjust their buoyancy and often swim with just their necks and heads above water.

For years, grebes were believed to be closely related to the loon, another foot propelled diver, but advances in DNA analysis have proven that grebes are most closely related to flamingos.

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