A Rare Sight to See – Standing Pied-billed Grebes

Adult Pied-billed Grebe in breeding plumageAdult Pied-billed Grebe in breeding plumage

This is how we normally see Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) - floating on the water. This adult in breeding plumage was photographed near where I live at a local pond in December of 2009.

Juvenile Pied-billed Grebe in duckweedJuvenile Pied-billed Grebe in duckweed

I photographed this juvenile Pied-billed Grebe at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area on a visit to Utah in October of 2008 before I moved here. The Duckweed just about covered the whole surface of the pond.

Because of the posterior placement of the legs and feet Grebes have a very difficult time standing or walking on solid ground.

Adult Pied-billed Grebe out of the waterAdult Pied-billed Grebe out of the water

On September 21, 2009 I saw several Pied-billed Grebes out of the water and standing on solid ground while photographing birds at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. Doesn’t this grebe look barrel-chested? We don’t normally get a view of a Pied-billed Grebe like this one.

Adult Pied-billed Grebe flapping its wings while standingAdult Pied-billed Grebe flapping its wings while standing

This image was taken the same day as the one above and it is the same grebe flapping its wings as it moved towards the water.

Three Pied-billed Grebes out of the waterThree Pied-billed Grebes out of the water

On the same date we saw several Pied-billed Grebes out of the water, some of them were resting (far left and right) while others were actively walking or flapping their wings while standing in an upright position.

Standing Pied-billed Grebe adultStanding Pied-billed Grebe adult

Three days later, September 24, 2009, at the same pond at Farmington Bay WMA there were more Pied-billed Grebes standing on the shoreline while a few others floated on the water’s surface.

Adult Pied-billed Grebe flapping its wingsAdult Pied-billed Grebe flapping its wings

I think this image shows how far the legs and feet of Pied-billed Grebes are placed at the back of their bodies very well.

Around the time period these standing grebe images were taken there was an outbreak of Avian botulism that was killing grebes, ducks and other water birds in the Salt Lake Valley.

“Avian botulism is a naturally occurring toxin in marshes, activated by warm temperatures and a lack of oxygen in the water. Outbreaks generally happen every August along the Great Salt Lake marshes.” – Salt Lake Tribune (click here to read the article)

I’m not a scientist or a wildlife biologist, I am just a bird photographer who studies my subjects as I photograph them in the field but I did wonder if these Pied-billed Grebes instinctively knew that being in the water during the avian botulism outbreak of 2009 was a risk to their health and if that was why they were resting and standing on the shoreline of the pond. I suppose a biologist who studies Pied-billed Grebes might know the answer to that.

It was an unusual experience to see these Pied-billed Grebes standing upright and walking on the edge of this pond, some  might even consider it rare. I know I haven’t seen or photographed them standing since the 24th of September in 2009. You just never know what you might see while out in nature.

Mia

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