Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Red-necked Grebe

On our trip home, we split our traverse of endless Montana by taking an extra day to cross the state. On 24 July 2014, we left the Interstate and drove south on State Route 1 up to Georgetown Lake before the highway heads straight east and back to the Interstate. Our target species was the Red-necked Grebe, a bird we lacked for our Year List. We saw this grebe at this location many years ago, so I thought we stood of tolerable chance of seeing it again.

Red-necked Grebes are found from Alaska and northwest Canada, dipping south into Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and Idaho—I have also seen the species in South Dakota and Minnesota. They also breed across Asia to Europe. Our birds, as are those from eastern Asia, are larger than European populations. Until 1957, these larger birds were thought to be a distinct species, the Holboell’s Grebe.

As we hoped, we had no difficulty finding a Red-necked Grebe along Georgetown Lake near the highway. This individual swam aggressively back and forth—perhaps the nest lay among some reeds in nearby shallows. In the second photo, note the raised tufts on the back of the head. These crests are often raised during defensive displays (Stout and Nuechteriein 1999).

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