Eared Grebe

(Podiceps nigricollis)

The most abundant grebe in the world, the Eared Grebe is a small waterbird with a very thin bill and a bright red eye. In the summer months, golden wisps fan out from their cheeks as they dance and run across the water courting. They breed in colonies in shallow wetlands in western North America and head by the hundreds and thousands to salty inland waters to feast on brine shrimp before heading farther south. In winter, they lose the golden wisps, turning gray and white.

Eared Grebes might be the whales of the bird world in one sense. Researchers suggest that they use their large, fleshy tongue much as baleen whales do, crushing prey against the palate to squeeze out the salty water.

Information from the All About Birds website, www.allaboutbirds.org, © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.