Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New River Wish List, Post #1: Pied-billed Grebe

And now we begin looking at potential lifers (for me, anyway) I might see in Virginia at the New River Bird and Nature Festival. First, let's look at their list from this year's fest:

Common LoonPied-billed Grebe Great EgretGreen Heron Black VultureTurkey VultureCanada GooseMute SwanWood DuckMallardBlue-winged TealLesser ScaupOspreySharp-shinned HawkCooper’s Hawk Red-shouldered HawkBroad-winged HawkRed-tailed HawkAmerican KestrelMerlin Peregrine FalconRuffed Grouse Wild TurkeyKilldeerLesser YellowlegsSolitary SandpiperSpotted SandpiperAmerican WoodcockRock DoveMourning DoveYellow-billed Cuckoo Eastern Screech Owl Great Horned OwlBarred OwlCommon NighthawkWhip-poor-willChimney SwiftRuby-throated HummingbirdBelted Kingfisher Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-bellied WoodpeckerDowney WoodpeckerHairy WoodpeckerNorthern FlickerPileated WoodpeckerEastern Wood PeeweeAcadian flycatcher Least Flycatcher Eastern Phoebe
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Bank SwallowCliff Swallow Barn Swallow Carolina ChickadeeBlack-capped ChickadeeTufted Titmouse Red-breasted Nuthatch White-breasted Nuthatch Brown CreeperCarolina WrenHouse Wren Winter WrenRuby-crowned KingletBlue-gray GnatcatcherEastern BluebirdVeery Swainson’s ThrushHermit ThrushWood ThrushAmerican RobinGray CatbirdNorthern Mockingbird Brown Thrasher European Starling Cedar Waxwing Blue-winged WarblerGolden-winged Warbler Tennessee WarblerNashville Warbler Northern Parula Yellow Warbler Chestnut-sided Warbler Magnolia Warbler Cape May WarblerBlack-throated Blue Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler Black-throated Green Warbler Blackburnian Warbler Yellow-throated Warbler Pine WarblerPrairie Warbler Palm WarblerBay-breasted Warbler Blackpoll Warbler Cerulean Warbler Blue-headed VireoWarbling VireoPhiladelphia VireoRed-eyed Vireo Blue JayAmerican Crow
Black-and-white WarblerAmerican RedstartWorm-eating WarblerSwainson’s WarblerOvenbirdNorthern WaterthrushLouisiana WaterthrushKentucky WarblerMourning WarblerCommon YellowthroatHooded WarblerWilson’s WarblerCanada WarblerYellow-breasted ChatSummer TanagerScarlet TanagerEastern TowheeChipping SparrowField Sparrow Savannah Sparrow Grasshopper SparrowSong SparrowLincoln’s SparrowSwamp Sparrow White-throated SparrowWhite-crowned SparrowDark-eyed JuncoNorthern CardinalRose-breasted GrosbeakIndigo BuntingBobolinkRed-winged BlackbirdEastern MeadowlarkRusty BlackbirdCommon GrackleBrown-headed CowbirdOrchard OrioleBaltimore OriolePurple FinchHouse FinchPine SiskinAmerican GoldfinchHouse SparrowArctic TernMandarin DuckGreat Crested FlycatcherEastern KingbirdWhite-eyed VireoYellow-throated VireoCommon RavenPurple MartinTree Swallow

Holy mishmash, that's a lot of birds! Too many to format into a single-column list. Sorry! Anyway--you get the idea. We can pretty much expect to see everything but an emu down there!

So let's start with a water bird: the Pied-billed Grebe
Weird-looking duck, in my opinion. Not a whole lot of field marks, save that stubby little bill. Let's see what Cornell has to tell us: "A small diving bird with a chicken-like bill, the Pied-billed Grebe is common on lakes and ponds across North America. It is rarely seen flying and prefers to sink out of sight when danger threatens." Interesting. So we're likely to see this guy on the water. Good! Easier to spot with a scope.

Wait a second! "Although it swims like a duck, the Pied-billed Grebe does not have webbed feet. Instead of having a webbing connecting all the toes, each toe has lobes extending out on the sides that provide extra surface area for paddling." So it's not a duck! A quick check on the Animal Planet site for this bird tells me it is not a duck. The toes are weird-looking--but I can't find an illustration on-line.!

You can hear the call on the Cornell link above; it's described as "kuk-kuk-kuk, kaow, kaow, kaow, kaow, kaowk, kaowk, kawk." Check. It's on my fabulous BirdJam software on my Ericsson-Walkman phone. Sweet!

My Peterson's guide notes that the little stubby chicken-like bill is different from the longer pointy bills of the grebes; it also has no wing patches like the other grebes do. So why the differences? Why is this even called a grebe? DNA, I guess.

Peterson also notes that the breeding birds will have "a black throat patch and a ring around the thick whitish bill[s]." Good to know. Here's a photo by Jeff Foott/DCI showing both the black throat patch and the black ring about the little chicken-beak:
Seems like this bird ought to be easy to identify in the field. What looks like a smudgy brown duck could be a female mallard, for instance, unless it has the little stubby beak of the pied-billed grebe. Grebes are also smaller than the mallards, about the size of a pigeon.
That's one bird down, many more to go! If you see anything about these Wish List posts that can be improved, please let me know in the comments. I'm trying to pack as much info on here as I can, commenting on the things that stand out in my mind as ID tips.

25 comments:

KGMom said...

Well, the great thing about such a voluminous list is that it should be possible to get quite a few lifers.
And that's the whole point, no?

Lynne said...

I love these itty bitty grebes. Cuteness is a duky package.

Susan Gets Native said...

*incredulous that you have never seen a pied-billed grebe*

That list you did just gave me a seizure.

Rabbits' Guy said...

You packed plenty into that list! let us know if you see that boy!

KatDoc said...

I didn't see Raven listed, tho maybe I overlooked it. I found some as I walked the nature trail at Opossum Creek on my first day at the festival.

Not too many Lifers left on that list for me, but I'm looking forward to the trip all the same.

You haven't seen a Pied-billed Grebe yet? I'm agog!

~Kathi

dguzman said...

KGMom--yeah, there are a few potential lifers in there for me, so it's great!

Lynne--cool!

Susan--what can I tell you? Maybe I have glanced at one and not recognized it, but I doubt it. They'd have been too small to escape my "what the hell is that?"

Rabbits' Guy--hopeful!

KatDoc--Ah, Raven--definitely need to do a post on that bird, because I may well have seen one and thought it was a crow. I know nothing distinguishing about them... YET!

NCmountainwoman said...

May all your New River wishes come true.

bruss1510 said...

I still need a pied billed grebe for my life list too, Delia. Hopefully we will see them in WV. Can't wait.

Beth

Natural Moments said...

Very good pied billed grebe photos. I love watching them dive in some of the lagoons I frequent. Happy Holidays....

lusia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Larry said...

I've only seen 2. The first one that I saw I could only tell mainly by shape. The markings didn't really match the field guide because of poor lighting.I remember learning about the feet the same way you just went through it.

danno said...

I think I saw 3 of these yesterday on a local (southern Wisconsin) lake however instead of swimming they stayed near the shoreline and one even perched in a nearby tree. Grebe characteristics?

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