Eared Grebes - North Dakota - June 2017

One of the highlights of my recent birding trip to North Dakota was the opportunity to observe and photograph Eared Grebes. Although they are the most abundant grebe in the world, their range does not include the southeastern part of the U.S., my usual birding area. I have seen Eared Grebes in Arizona but always at a distance. 

Larger versions of the photos can be viewed by clicking on the image.

Eared Grebe, Horsehead Lake WMA, North Dakota

Eared Grebes, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

Eared Grebe, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

"The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water." From All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology).


"The speed with which grebes can submerge has earned them such names as water-witch and helldiver, while the position of the feet near the tail is responsible for the early English name arsefoot, from which the family name was derived."  From Encyclopaedia Britannica.


Eared Grebe, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

Instead of webbed feet, Eared Grebes have lobed toes. The feet are large, with broad lobes on the toes and small webs connecting the toes. 

Eared Grebe, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

Both sexes work together to construct sodden platforms and nests of vegetation heaped into a floating mound and attached to aquatic vegetation. Part of such a nest is seen in front of the bird.

Eared Grebe, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

The pair of Grebes that constructed this nest spent a lot of time defending the region.

Eared Grebe, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

"Don't even think about coming close to my nest."

Eared Grebe, Lostwood NWR, North Dakota

As this technically terrible image shows, "following pair formation, grebes build one or more floating platforms of aquatic vegetation. On these mating takes place and ......" From Encyclopaedia Britannica.


David Sparks

I retired in 2005 after 40 years of research and teaching at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (24 years), the University of Pennsylvania (8 years) and the Baylor College of Medicine (8 years). Photography is my retirement hobby.

Nature photography, especially bird photography, combines a number of things that I really enjoy: bird-watching, being outdoors, photography, travel, messing about with computers, and learning new skills and concepts.  I now spend much of my time engaged in these activities.

David Sibley in the preface to The Sibley Guide to Birds wrote "Birds are beautiful, in spectacular as well as subtle ways; their colors, shapes, actions, and sounds are among the most aesthetically pleasing in nature."  My goal is to acquire images that capture the beauty and uniqueness of selected species as well as images that highlight the engaging behaviors the birds exhibit.