Mother Grebe with her young “grebling”.
While Grebes and Loons look similar and share many aquatic habits and attributes, they are not related in any way. With their streamlined bodies, Grebes are excellent swimmers and divers. They dive for fish from the surface of the water and propel themselves by the sideways motion of their lobed toes.
Like many diving ducks, Grebes’ feet are placed far back on their body, which greatly aids the bird when swimming and diving, but make it extremely difficult for a Grebe to stand upright for long, or to easily walk on land.
Even when breeding, Grebes are tied to the water, and their nests are usually constructed from partially floating platforms built on beds of water plants.
Like loons, Grebes can control their buoyancy by exhaling air and compressing their plumage so they sink quietly below the water.
The Red-necked Grebe is the largest Grebe we see in Southern Ontario. He’s quite a bit bigger than his Horned and Pied-billed cousins. Not quite as flamboyantly adorned as the adult breeding Horned Grebe, the Red-necked is still a beautifully-coloured specimen in his own right.
This Grebe breeds on small inland lakes in Canada and Alaska, and winters along both coasts of North America. It’s range in North America is not nearly as extensive as the Horned or Pied-billed Grebe. Boldly marked, vocal, and very aggressive during the breeding season, the Red-necked Grebe tends to be quiet, and is more subtly attired in winter.
The small “zebra-striped” chicks of Red-necked Grebes frequently ride on the backs of their swimming parents. The young ride between the wings on the parent's back, and may even go underwater with them during dives.