[Tweeters] Profligate Pied-billed Grebe

Martin Muller martinmuller at msn.com
Mon Feb 9 14:57:37 PST 2009


Thanks for sharing the cool grebe observation.
I have to agree I've never seen a pied-bill waste a fish (or other prey item) it caught, either. In many, many hours of watching them.
However, I've seen both Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorants catch fish bigger than they could swallow and after long (painful-looking) attempts, give up and "waste" the fish. Another way of looking at it is they didn't kill themselves trying to swallow something too big.

Martin Muller, Seattle
martinmuller at msn.com<mailto:martinmuller at msn.com>
----- Original Message -----
From: Gary Bletsch<mailto:garybletsch at yahoo.com>
To: tweeters tweeters<mailto:tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 08, 2009 6:40 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Profligate Pied-billed Grebe

Dear Tweetes,

Today I dithered about among Skagit County's "Lake District," rather than racing out to Mount Erie, which is what a sensible birder would have done.

There were no Redheads to be found on Clear, Beaver, or Mud Lake. There weren't any at DeBay's Slough, either.

However, at Mud Lake, I watched a Pied-billed Grebe kill and then discard a fish that I think was a crappie of some sort. It was shaped like a sunfish, but had black spots on the fins and tail.

The grebe had a grey bill with black band around it; two other Pied-billed Grebes with straw-colored bills followed it around, as the pied-billed one tried to swallow this leviathan.

Again and again, the grebe would position the fish, then try to swallow it, but the wide shape of the crappie's body prevented the bird from so doing. After being subjected to perhaps ten of these punishments, the fish flopped its tail back and forth in an ever more feeble manner.

Meanwhile, the other two grebes kept close, but never made any aggressive moves. At one point, one of them did put its bill within an inch or two of the fish, and made a tentative move toward it, but did not press the issue. The grebe with the fish appeared to pay no heed to the other grebe.

After about five minutes of this, the grebe with the fish just dropped it in the lilly-pad shallows. I could see the fish lying in the water, maybe an inch or two below the surface, not moving at all. The other two birds stayed there for a moment, and then swam off. Within a minute or two, all three were looking for more suitable prey.

There were Buffleheads nearby, but they ignored the whole scene. No other birds came over to investigate, so I left after another ten minutes.

I don't recall ever seeing a grebe kill something and then let it go to waste. Come to think of it, I cannot seem to recall having witnessed any instance of a bird or other predator doing this.

Yours truly,

Gary Bletsch Near Lyman, Washington (Skagit County), USA garybletsch at yahoo.com<mailto:garybletsch at yahoo.com>

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