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Loon and Grebe photos, pictures and photography

Loons and Grebes

The Grebe is a member of the Podicipediformes order, a widely distributed order of freshwater diving birds, although they will venture into salt water when migrating and in winter. This order contains only a single family, the Podicipedidae, and has 22 species in 6 extant genera. Grebes are small to medium-large in size, have lobed toes, and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they are awkward on land and are prone to falling over, since they have their feet placed far back on the body.

They have unusual plumage. It is dense and waterproof, and on the underside the feathers are at right-angles to the skin, sticking straight out to begin with and curling at the tip. By pressing their feathers against the body, Grebes can adjust their buoyancy. Often, they swim low in the water with just the head and neck exposed. In the non-breeding season, Grebes are plain-colored in dark browns and whites. However, most have ornate and distinctive breeding plumages, often developing chestnut markings on the head area, and perform elaborate display rituals.

The Loons (name in North America) or Divers (name in UK/Ireland) are a group of aquatic birds found in many parts of North America and northern Eurasia (Europe and Asia). All living species of Loons are members of the genus Gavia, family Gaviidae and order Gaviiformes. Male and female Loons have identical plumage. Plumage is largely patterned black-and-white in summer, with grey on the head and neck in some species. All have a white belly.

Loons are excellent swimmers, using their feet to propel themselves above and under water while their wings provide assistance. Because their feet are far back on the body, loons are poorly adapted to moving on land, and usually avoid going onto land, except when nesting. They find their food by sight. Their diet consist mainly of fish, supplemented with amphibians, crustaceans and similar mid-sized aquatic fauna. Specifically, they have been noted to feed on crayfish, frogs, snails, salamanders and leeches. Loons prefer clear lakes because they can more easily see their prey through the water. The Loon uses its pointy bill to stab or grasp prey. They eat vertebrate prey headfirst to facilitate swallowing, and swallow all their prey whole.

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