Red-Necked Grebe at the Ferry Dock

(Editors note:  I was wrong.  THis is not a red-necked grebe, it’s a red breasted merganser.  Aaron Givens, the wildlife biologist at Kiawah, and one of Dewees Island’s best birders for Audubon counts, sent me an analysis of why I was wrong.  Here’s what he pointed out:

 1.  What first prompted me to Red-breasted Merganser is the bill is not pointed at the tip but is rather blunt like that of mergansers.   2.  In IMG_5578, you can see that the feet are webbed. Grebes do not have webbed feet but have lobes on there toes.   3.  IMG_5581 shows a few other characteristics which are not consistant with Red-necked Grebes.                   a.  There is no white on the leading edge of the wing.                  b.  The tail is too long.  Red-necked Grebes (and most grebes) do not have much of a tail and in flight their legs extend well beyond the tail.                  c.  Red-breasted Mergansers actually have two white wing patches separated by a thin dark line.  In this photo you can clearly see both – the white patch on the                        secondaries and another white patch just above those in the greater coverts.  Red-necked Grebes will only have white in the secondaries.


And here’s the original post:

Our Big Year contest hasn’t begun yet, but I managed to catch sight of a new bird that I had never seen before: A Red-necked Grebe. They are a species that is only here in winter (and then only occasionally; the last one recorded nearby was 20 years ago), and because we were pulling in to the dock with the boat after shooting photos of American Oystercatchers, I barely had time to grab the camera.  It was bigger than a Horned Grebe, with a bigger bill, and it had distinctive white patches on the wings.  Since I didn’t have binoculars, I raised my lens and started snapping.  I was pretty sure it was a bird I hadn’t spotted here before, and I checked on ebird to see if anyone else had reported one on Dewees.  There had not been any reported here, and the last time one was reported in the state was in January near Clemson.  I sent my grainy photos to a local expert who monitors ebird data, and he verified it.  (He had recorded one on Capers in 1991.)

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Carey Sullivan

    You are the talk of Serendipity!

  2. reggiefairchild

    A bird not recorded in the Dewees area since 1991 is pretty special. Way to go Jude.

  3. John Cox

    The photos look to be of a female red-breasted merganser, especially the sitting profile…the bill is typical of a red-breasted. A much more likely species for the area.

  4. Judy Drew Fairchild

    You are right, John! Aaron Givens, the Wildlife Biologist at Kiawah, helped us analyze the photos shortly after this was posted– I thought we had removed this post. We’ll leave it up with your edits (and I will change the text as well as the comments.) While we ran it past experts to be sure, we all decided in retrospect that you can trick yourself into believing you are seeing something special. Generally, expect a horse rather than a zebra, etc. I did remove it from my list on ebird, but the change to this post must not have gone through. Thanks for the feedback!

    That said, a red-necked grebe showed up right here on the rare bird list near Capers just this week! It was identified as part of the Christmas Count, I think, and looks confirmed. I’ll be looking at the inlets closely!

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