Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grebe Courtship

Viewing the courtship display of Western Grebes has been high on my bucket list.  When we chose to camp at Eagle Lake in Northern California I didn't realize that the lake hosted a large population of the birds nor did I know that this was the time when they were pairing up.
When we went to the marina it was quickly apparent what was going on and we were treated to the full repertoire of breeding display.







According to the "Birder's Handbook" there are four different elements to the courtship display.  We witnessed all of them but I only got pictures of three.

The first shown here is weed dancing.  The birds stand up in the water each holding a piece of plant in its beak.

Unlike ducks and geese, the grebes' legs are far back on the body allowing them to stretch far out of the water.  They can hold that stance for quite a while.















Bob preening looks almost choreographed.











 First one and then the other will bob its head down in a preening motion.

Dip shaking, which I didn't get a picture of, is similar but the birds dip their head in the water and then shake of the drops.


The most exciting part of the display is rushing.  The birds run across the water.
Eventually one falls back into the water and the other one stops.  I wonder if they are saying to each other "look how strong I am, I can help you feed a large brood"?

We saw a great variety of birds at Eagle Lake, both in the water and in the woods.  Some were new to me and I'll show those in a latter post.

A word on the "Birder's Handbook", if you enjoy birding and aren't familiar with this wonderful guide you might want to check it out.  It isn't a field guide, it has no pretty pictures, but tells you where the birds nest, what they eat, which parents care for the young and has lots of information on bird biology and bird behavior.

I've linked this post to World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Springman.

27 comments:

Gary said...

What an interesting series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Springman said...

So glad you were able to break the ice this morning! What a amazing dance you describe here. I think walking on water is quite a trick even when your in love!

Dina said...

Great catch on these amazing birds. Love the walking on water shot. I haven't seen these in the wild before.

dreamfalcon said...

Lucky you! Great photos of something I'd definitely like to see some day.

Bill S. said...

Fantastic captures. Grebes are always fun to watch during breeding season. Way to make us all a little jealous.

BirdingMaine said...

A very informative and interesting post! Fabulous photo series!

holdingmoments said...

Very similar behaviour to our Great Crested Grebes Martha.
Fascinating to watch the 'weed dance', and you got great captures of their display.
The 'rushing' across the water is spectacular.

joo said...

What the beautiful dance:)
The second photo is fabulous!

EG Wow said...

Soooo cool! These are great photos!!

Andrew said...

Beautiful images of a lovely bird.

Sondra said...

what a terrific post, this breeding action is so well captured...Perfect!

mick said...

A great series of photos.

eileeninmd said...

What a cool experience. I loved the photos of the Grebes. A great collection.

Larry said...

Super shots of the Western Grebe breeding displays Martha! I went to Clear Lake a month or so ago and some some pairing behavior also but I was just a bit too early. Grebes are one of my all time favorite birds to watch. So graceful.

When did you take these at Eagle Lake? I live close enough to head up there almost any weekend!

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

How fortunate you were to happen upon this. Good for you. Thanks for sharing those great photos.

Gaelyn said...

This is so Awesome! I am jealous. I saw a video of this courtship display long ago in an ornithology class. Such an amazing choreographed dance of the Grebes. I'll have to check out the Birder's Handbook, as most field guides don't give so much information.

Barb said...

Fabulous capture! this is an amazing series of photos!

bailey-road.com said...

What a wonderful series showing the various courtship displays! Great photos!

clairz said...

Wow, this was just amazing! I felt like I was watching one of those magical Disney nature movies from my childhood.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Wonderful Martha! And especially since you just stumbled on the grebes at this perfect time -- to me that makes it even more special than if you'd planned carefully to be there. It's as if the birding gods were smiling on you. Your pictures are spectacular.

Pat Ulrich said...

This is so awesome! It's a sight that I finally got to see this spring as well, unfortunately, I witnessed it from quite a distance. Nothing like this!

Barb said...

Martha - These are once-in-a-liftime captures! i enjoyed both photos and commentary.

katney said...

Fascinating.

Riet said...

THese pictures are stunning. How wonderful you were there at the right time.

Janie said...

The photos of the grebes running across the water are simply amazing. Great captures!

Crafty Green Poet said...

how wonderful to see the whole grebe courtship dance!

Kay said...

This is so much fun to see!