Pied-billed Grebes

provided by CROW

The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks” which perfectly describes the body type of the pied-billed grebe. The position of their legs helps to propel them through the water when they dive after their prey which includes crustaceans and small fish. They have lobed (not webbed) toes which further assist with swimming.

Pied-billed grebes, whose name is derived from the appearance of a “pied” coloring on their bill during breeding season, also have the ability to trap water in their feathers giving them great control of their buoyancy. This allows them to sink below the surface or swim with as little or as much of their body above the water as they want. It has even been said because of this trait that they are ‘part bird, part submarine’.

However, since these birds are so well adapted for the water, they do not do so well on land. The rear placement of their legs means it is difficult to lift the weight of their body causing them to walk awkwardly on the ground. It also makes it difficult for them to take flight from dry land.

Sometimes, when in flight and looking for a body of water to splash into, pied-billed grebes will mistakenly land on wet pavement which gives the illusion of a pond or lake from the air. Even if they escape from the crash landing unscathed, their unique adaptations for the water prevent them from getting back in the air, stranding them on the ground.

That was the likely scenario for two pied-billed grebes recently admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). The first was a juvenile grebe admitted on October 15. Veterinarians provided a health check including radiographs, bloodwork, and a period of observation, but did not find any injuries or cause for concern. The juvenile grebe was able to be released later the same day to a pond near where it was found.

The second grebe was admitted just a few days later on October 18. At first, it seemed to be healthy as well aside from some mild dehydration. However, after careful observation, the bird was found to have signs of head trauma including a dull mentation and drooping its head, particularly when no one was around.

After a couple days of medication, fluids and rest, the grebe improved. Veterinary staff noted it to be much more alert and to even be biting at them when approached to be moved from tub to enclosure. Due to its improved mentation, the grebe was cleared to be released back to the wild.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (10/14-10/20):
There were 80 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 15 eastern cottontail rabbits, four clapper rails, two great egrets, a barred owl, a bald eagle, a seminole bat, and a green sea turtle. Recent Releases include a magnificent frigatebird, a gopher tortoise, a summer tanager and 11 eastern gray squirrels. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases! Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

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