Interesting Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Although they look like ducks and act like ducks, pied-billed grebes, according to DNA studies, are more closely related to flamingos than ducks. I was surprised to learn that, as well as a couple other interesting items.

Pied-billed grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) have been called “little submarines”. They can “crash dive” straight down, swim just under the surface, swim at the bottom and submerge  “alligator style” and float with their eyes just above the surface. This is because they can alter their inherent buoyancy by squeezing trapped air out from between their feathers and internal air sacs. Each pied-billed grebe feather is attached to the skin at a right angle with a curl at the top trapping air against the body. By modifying the way the feathers lay against the body the amount of trapped air changes adjusting buoyancy. Of course, removing air from around the body allows more water to get trapped in the  feathers. Some authors contribute the buoyancy control by a pied-billed grebe to be due to water trapped in the feathers, but this is simply another way of looking at removing air from around the feathers.

Another fascinating thing is that pied-billed grebes eat their own feathers. This is believed to serve two purposes. One is that the feathers act as a sieve in the stomach and keep harmful, sharp prey parts from entering the intestines. Secondly, the feathers encapsulate indigestible matter so it can be disgorged as pellets, similar to an owl’s casts.

This cute pied-billed grebe was swimming in Ash Creek near the Hall Pond Trail in Ash Creek Wildlife Area near Lookout CA (Modoc County). Years ago I wrote another post with more information about pied-billed grebes (02-11-2012).


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White Rushlily

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A native perennial, white rushlily (Hastingsia alba) has a limited range. It grows in wet meadows, bogs and rocky seeps with serpentine soils. It can be found in Northern California and Southwestern Oregon between about 1,650 and 7,500 feet. White … Continue reading

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Purple Star

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Starfish abound on most seacoasts, especially on rocky shores and wharf pilings. They are members of the Phylum Echinodermata and Class Asteroidea. The body consists of a central disk and tapering rays, or arms. At the end of each arm … Continue reading

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Shared Habitat

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In our area the chief food of coyotes is lagomorphs (hares, rabbits), small rodents (ground squirrels, gophers, kangaroo rats, meadow mice and voles) insects, nuts, berries and fruit. However,  coyotes (Canis latrans) are very adaptable and will eat whatever is … Continue reading

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Rock Spiraea

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The plant Leonard and I commonly call rock spiraea is a variety of Holodiscus discolor (oceanspray or cream bush).  As I mentioned in my last post (“Rockmat” on 11-06-19), Petrophytum caespitosum is often also colloquially referred to as rock spiraea. … Continue reading

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Leonard and I were first introduced to Petrophytum caespitosum in October while visiting Great Basin National Monument in Nevada as “rock spiraea”. It was growing along the Mountain View Nature Trail.  Hmmm. . . We were familiar with a “rock … Continue reading

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Smooth Willowherb

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Smooth willowherb, smoothstem fireweed and glaucous willowherb are just three of the colloquial names used interchangeably for Epilobium glaberrimum and its two subspecies glaberrimum and fastigatum. In June Leonard and I found specimens between the North and South Elkins Barns … Continue reading

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