Aren’t photographs wondrous? We can take time to observe carefully this moment in time – the sun shining on this Pied-billed Grebe, illuminating the details of the feathers drying in the sunshine, framed by the rippling blue water. We can guess these gentle ripples are caused by the feet paddling beneath the grebe’s body.
The fledgling stage ends by at least three months after hatching, when the young birds are able to hunt and survive independently. The parents essentially close the door on their nest, even pecking or grabbing the fledglings’ necks and shaking them if they try to return. Parents may be readying for a second brood or are they encouraging independence?
Being bird detectives, we note the reddish neck, and face have lost the striped head markings of the juvenile. The delicately curved, pale beak, and nostril, with no “pied” or dark marking, is also a sign of no longer being a juvenile. We note the grayish back feathers have not yet molted. This indicates that the juvenile, usually at about seven months, has developed into the next stage, what is called the Basic 1 plumage, but has not yet developed adult Definitive Basic plumage.
Alert posture, eyes, and head, indicates the bird is listening and watching for prey or predators. Often, we see a grebe suddenly disappear for minutes as it dives below the surface to find food, popping up in another part of the lake, usually in the company of another juvenile or mate. The moment caught in this photo is fleeting, one moment there, the next the grebe may disappear, nowhere to be seen.
Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society