Eared grebes are common in fall and winter. In spring, we don't see them so much as they head off to the breeding grounds. Eared Grebes are fluffy-looking grayish black-and-white water birds with red eyes and a slight upward lift in their bill.
Eared Grebes are small black-and-white birds that swim in the water and dive rather suddenly.
Notice how high his fanny rides in the water. That is characteristic. According to "All About Birds," it likes to sun its fanny and warm up that way.
Characteristic of my early shots of Eared Grebes.
For the longest time, the only shots I got of eared grebes were of ripples in the water where they had been seconds before. It takes timing and patience--especially when eared grebes are on a diving roll. An Eared Grebe comes up from one dive and then dives down again faster than a birder can blink. What you do is find some grebes. Then you wait, snapping away until you get the right shot.
Eared Grebe at Bolsa Chica. Cruising.
Sometimes you can catch them after a long session of diving when they just cruise along and rest up for the next diving set.
Underwater footage of unidentified grebe by Thomas Lockie.
Here from You-Tube member Thomas Lockie is a great video of an unidentified grebe diving. Notice the way his feet are set back on his body and act as a kind of propeller powering him through the water.
Eared Grebe paddling along at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
Their feet are set way back on their body so they can power paddle under water when they dive.
Eared Grebe is non-breeding plumage. This is how they usually look in the OC.
A low-key bird in fall and winter that draws attention by diving, not looks. Changes a lot when spring comes. Take a look below.
Eared Grebe in breeding plumage. They don't usually look this way in the OC. Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Eared Grebes are kind of like Clark Kent and Superman. They can look very mild mannered and nondescript, but then they don their breeding plumage, and they are flashy and eye-catching. Don't expect to see much of them in this plumage, because they don't breed in Orange County.
Links and Resources
Thorough article discusses the greb's appearance, similar species, habitat, food, cool facts, range, foraging and courtship behaviors, and includes range maps, pictures, and sound recordings of the Eared Grebe's call.
Apogee Magazine: Eared Grebes by Andy Long
Article about nesting Eared Grebes at Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado. Photographer Andy Long photographs an Eared Grebe on her nest.
Very good identification tips that include plumages and a good discussion of differentiating the Eared Grebe from other similar grebes.
ID in Eared and Horned Grebes
From Monterey website Creagrus by Don Roberson. Good article on differentiating between these two grebes.
Short, clear article with interesting information their feeding habits and about wintering ranges.
Compact article with some neat features. You can view a pictures, a map, and hear the call of the Eared Grebe by sliding the bar under the picture and clicking on what you want to see and hear. Good information about the Eared Grebe's appearance, nesting habits, and preferred food, and some details about Eared Grebes in Montana.
Fun article from children's magazine provided online by BNET Reserach Center. Short and funny with links to two other Range Rick articles on the grebes. Funny discussion of Eared Grebe potty training. Ranger Rick is published by the National Wildlife Federation. BNET is a great way to find articles that aren't online anywhere else.
Not only can human children hear Beethoven in the womb, but unborn chicks communicate with there parents from inside the egg. Read about it in this article from AUK provided online by SORA (Searchable Ornithological Archive).
Interesting study of how these birds in which male and female look alike tell one another apart. Read about it in this article from AUK provided online by SORA (Searchable Ornithological Archive).
Wilson Bulletin: Conspecific Collisions Can Precipitate Mortality in
Migrating Eared Grebes
According to the article, Eared Grebes are nocturnal migrants and not very good navigators. They crash into one another and into stationary objects at fairly low elevations when disoriented by poor weather such as winds, snow, and rain. They are very disoriented by lights. When these conditions exist, collisions increase.
Outdoor Alabama: Eared Grebe
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