Posted by: atowhee | April 4, 2009

Snow grebe

The recent Backyard Bird Count found the Snow Goose to be the most abundant species in North America in winter.  But a snow grebe is another thing.  Yet, here’s proof of one, in a fine photo taken by Maggie Rackley.  Of course, this is actually a leucistic (true albino?) Eared Grebe:earedgrebe-leucistic1


Ms Rackley spotted this grebe swimming in Clear Lake, off shore at a city park in Lakeport in Northern California.  Marvelously clear photo.

BNA tells us the Eared Grebe specializes in highly saline environments: think Mono Lake and the Great Basin.  Love those brine shrimp.  Eared Grebes breed in northeastern California and southeastern Oregon as well as northern Great Basin and up into dry interior of Canada.  They go no further east than the Midwest either in breeding or in migration.

They spend more time being flightless than any other “volant”  (flying) bird in North America: nine months or more.  They spend up to four months paddling around a fall staging area before regaining flight and moving to “wintering” grounds in a warmer place.

Here’s what BNA says about white Eared Grebes:

“Aberrant Plumages

“Leucistic birds not uncommon and have been found breeding. Plumage variations illustrated by Jehl (1985). Proportion of leucistic birds staging at Mono Lake variable, from about 1:15,000–20,000 in summer to 1:100,000 at peak of fall migration (Jehl 1985). Of dozens examined or captured, all but two have had at least trace of dark plumage, usually on wings. No true albinos known.”



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