Sometimes I take so many photos, I forget what I have, and good ones get lost in the gigabytes of storage on my hard drive. This past spring was one of those times when I took many more photos than I was able to post. So, I thought I would backtrack and catch up with a few of the highlights of the previous spring’s bird migration.
Here’s a bird I had never seen before this spring, let alone taken a picture of it.
In winter plumage they resemble their cousins the Western Grebe, with the same black and white markings (but with much shorter bills and necks).Like other grebes, and diving ducks, this little bird is a fish eater. But it has an unusual habit associated with this diet. It consumes its own feathers to act as a strainer to prevent the fish bones in its stomach from passing into the intestine. The plug of feathers plus any undigested bones, may be egested, similar to what hawks and owls do when they regurgitate the indigestible portions of their diet. In fact, feather fish strainers are so important to grebe digestion that the parents begin feeding feathers to their chicks as soon as they hatch. Do other fish-eating birds regurgitate the fish bones as well? What animals can or would eat bone, anyway, other than hyenas or some vultures who can secrete potent stomach acid? It’s pretty hard and non-nourishing stuff.
Ron Dudley posted some fantastic photos of several grebe species eating feathers on his Feathered Photography blog. (Click here to go there)