A Western Grebe with a feather on its bill

A Western Grebe with a feather on its billA Western Grebe with a feather on its bill – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 500, -1.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Two days ago at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge I found a couple of Western Grebes preening in an area where the reflections on the water are always wonderful so I took a series of images. I love it when the blue sky is also reflected on the surface along with the other colors and this frame has that and it also shows a feather stuck to the bill of the grebe that is in sharp focus. Grebes are known for eating their own feathers. From Birds of North American (BNA) online:

Stomachs also contain many feathers, mostly from the bird’s flanks and scapulars, tracts, which are in almost constant molt. Feathers swallowed as they come out in the course of preening. Most feathers form ball in lumen of stomach, but some form plug at pyloric exit. Function not proven but thought to keep fish bones from injuring lining of stomach and reaching intestine or, as suggested by Piersma and Van Eerden (1989), to assist in the formation of pellets which can be ejected, eliminating indigestible material and a possible build-up of gastric parasites. Pyloric plug may reduce number of intestinal parasites, which are numerous (see Demography: mortality and disease), although effectiveness is unknown (Storer 2000).

I did not observe either of these grebes eating the feathers they plucked out while preening that morning instead the feathers simply floated down the Bear River.

I like the bit of interest the single feathers provides.

Life is good.



  1. jane chesebrough August 30, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Love it ! Took a peak on a public computer – I hope to have my computer and phone set up by the end of the week. And taking photos-YAY!

  2. Elephant's Child August 29, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Love the silen look of the water. I can almost feel it rippling through my fingers. And then I realised where the term rippling came from in that context.
    Plants face in palm.
    And the grebes are as always beautiful. And the education a treat.

  3. Cindy August 29, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Beautiful colors, Mia. Thank you for always sharing your uplifting images and love of nature.

  4. Patty Chadwick August 29, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Interesting comments and information. These birds have such beautiful, elegant colors. Love the bright red eyes and bright blue water rings…

  5. Bob Mcpherson August 29, 2015 at 6:17 am

    Beautiful picture, Mia-Interesting facts too.

Comments are closed.