The Eared Grebe is the most abundant Grebe in the world, however a very rare visitor to Ontario as it normally lives on the west coast and winters in the southwestern United States and Mexico. The Grebe pictured below showed up this summer at the Cobourg Harbour where it stayed for a number of weeks and became somewhat of a local celebrity with birders and photographers from all over the province heading to Cobourg to see him.
The Eared Grebe is a beautiful bird that is about the same size or perhaps a little smaller than a duck and it feeds on aquatic insects, small crustaceans and fish. It is an accomplished diver and underwater swimmer.
One of the most amazing facts regarding Eared Grebes is that they are mostly flightless, unable to fly for about ten months each year. They only fly in order to migrate, so for a month each spring and fall they take to the air. The process of migration takes so much energy and causes so much weight loss that than upon completion of migration they are exhausted and emaciated to the point they can no longer fly and must start the slow process of eating enough to increase weight and muscle mass to be ready for the next migration. The Eared Grebe spends more time unable to fly than any other migratory bird in the world.
They can however scoot across the water and take on a menacing look if they need to defend their territory as shown below.
Like us sometimes Grebes bite off more than they can chew and I was fortunate to be able to catch this interchange between bird & fish. Eventually the Grebe literally tossed this fish away….apparently some fish have nine lives too.
More images of the Eared Grebe can be seen in the Loons & Grebes Gallery
All of these shots were taken hand-held with a 500mm lens sitting on a rock as close to the water level as possible.