RED-NECKED GREBE – (Podiceps grisegena)
The Red-necked Grebe is a water bird with a widespread distribution around the northern hemisphere. It measures about 45 cm (18 in.) long. Breeding adults have a black cap with a small crest, light grey throat and cheeks, and a dark red neck (hence the name). The upper parts are dark grey and the under parts white. The wing secondaries are white. The straight, pointed bill is black on top and yellow under. The lobed feet are black. Non-breeding adults have a washed out grey neck and less black on the bill. Both sexes are similar.
The young chicks’ head has black and white stripes and their body is grey. Their bill is yellow. They have a reddish spot between the eye and the bill. Juveniles still have the head stripes but they are less pronounced, and their body is grey brown.
The Latin genus name ‘Podiceps’ means ‘rump’ and ‘foot’, and refers to the placement of the birds’ feet near the rump. This position allows them to swim easily but they are not good walkers on the ground. The English name ‘Grebe’ might come from a Breton word that means ‘crest’. The Latin species name ‘grisegena’ means ‘grey cheeks’.
The red-necked grebe builds its nest on a floating platform on shallow inland lakes or ponds, with lots of vegetation that provides shelter. They carry their chicks on their backs. Sometimes they leave the nest at night, possibly as a precaution from predators. Those include raccoons, crows and birds of prey. This grebe will dive to avoid predators.
The diet of the red-necked grebe includes fish, crustaceans, insects and molluscs. They dive from the surface. They also eat their own feathers and even feed them to their chicks, but the reason for this is unknown.
The red-necked grebe does not breed on PEI, and sightings of this bird species on the island vary depending on the seasons, from uncommon to rare to occasional to accidental. Its breeding range covers the western half of Canada except the Rockies, Alaska, eastern Europe and parts of western and eastern Asia. For the winter this grebe will migrate to the coasts of North America and the Great Lakes, to western Europe and coastal Asia and Japan.