A Horned Grebe in North Basin

This bird was cruising northward along and near the paved pathway on the east side of the park yesterday afternoon.  It moved so fast and so far underwater and spent so little time above that I nearly missed it altogether. Even more than other diving birds, it had exquisite timing: just as my camera got focused, and a split second before I clicked the shutter, it dove.  I have several excellent pictures of wave circles where its rear end disappeared a moment earlier.  But I got lucky and captured one snapshot, below.  The shape and beak identify it as a grebe, but the color and relative shortness of the beak say that it is neither a Western nor a Clark’s Grebe, seen in the park’s waters earlier.  It looks quite a bit smoother than the Horned Grebe I photographed here some time ago, and the dark line running from its eye to the base of its beak isn’t red, as was that one.  But despite these differences, after checking the web, I’m moderately sure that this is also a Horned Grebe in non-breeding winter plumage.  They have a spectacular red, black, and gold head display in the summer breeding season, but we won’t see that here; they breed in Canada and Alaska.  It looks very similar to an Eared Grebe, but does not show the peaked crown, sort of like a Mohawk hair cut, of the Eared.   More info on the Audubon and Cornell bird websites. 

Horned Grebe

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