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GO WILDwith eric paylor.

IT'S good to see that a good number of Teesside's little grebe chicks have survived the many perils of early life.

These attractive small waterbirds can easily be overlooked on our ponds and lakes, although usually not by potential predators.

Just as baby ducks run the gauntlet every day of their lives, so too do the diminutive fledgling little grebes. Herons are particularly to be avoided.

They stand motionless as the grebes approach, and then with a quick dart of the beak, the outcome is gruesome.

Anyway, lately I've spotted quite a few young little grebes around, still wisely keeping close by their parents. In fact I've seen a few hitching a lift on mum or dad's back.

Little by name, little by nature, the little grebe is around half the size of a moorhen and is a dumpy bird with a pale "powder puff" below its tail.

The breeding plumage, which is perfectly illustrated in my photograph, is dark brown with chestnut neck and cheeks, and a yellow patch at the base of its bill.

Little grebes feed primarily on small fish and insects and their larvae, which they catch by constantly diving under the water.

Recently I had the pleasure of watching a little grebe regularly diving and feeding in crystal-clear water at RSPB Saltholme.

They are mainly resident birds, so if you catch a sight of a little grebe this summer, then it is probably a dyed-inthe-wool Teessider. Juvenile moorhens and coot have had to avoid the same dangers as young little grebes, although it always appears that a good number survive into adulthood.

While I once witnessed a heron take an adult little grebe, it's usually the young moorhens and coots which are in danger of succumbing to that long piercing bill.

However, young coot sometimes face a bigger threat from their parents, who usually give up feeding the young after three or four days.

Those babies which beg for food are often jabbed into submission and can die from starvation.

Both moorhens and coots will dive for their food, like little grebes, although moorhens are just as happy dabbling on the surface and in shallow water.

However, when it feels threatened, the moorhen has the amazing ability to stay submerged under water for an extremely long spell of time.

If you have noted any interesting or unusual wildlife sightings in and around Teesside and Cleveland lately, contact Eric on eric.paylor@gmail.com

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A young grebe

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2019
Words:413
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