The Australasian Grebe is one of our diving birds that swim underwater to feed on fish and water insects. Photo: Contributed
The Australasian Grebe is one of our diving birds that swim underwater to feed on fish and water insects. Photo: Contributed

BIRD OF THE WEEK: Why this bird eats its own feathers

Many waterbirds started breeding after the rain in February/March with the result that there are now many young birds being fed by their parents.

Most wetlands will have Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Australasian Grebe chicks pestering the parents for food.

The Australasian Grebe is one of our diving birds that swim underwater to feed on fish and water insects.

It is known to eat its own feathers and feed them to their young to prevent injury from any sharp fish bones that are swallowed.

It has two distinct plumage phases.

Non-breeding is when both sexes are dark grey-brown above and mostly silver-grey below, with a white oval patch of bare skin at the base of the bill.

In the breeding season, both sexes have a glossy-black head and a rich chestnut facial stripe which extends from just behind the eye through to the base of the neck.

The bare skin at the base of the bill turns yellow.

It is called Australasian because it is found throughout Australia as well as the Pacific Islands and New Zealand.

They can breed up to three times a year when conditions are right.

A nest is constructed on a floating mound of vegetation and is normally anchored to a submerged branch or reed. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young birds.

The striped downy chicks are able to swim from birth and are cared for by both parents.

When parents start breeding again, however, the young of the previous brood are driven away and have to look after themselves.

Good places to see this bird are the Botanic Gardens and Baldwin Swamp Environment Park.

Allan Briggs is the Secretary of BirdLife Capricornia. Contact him with your bird questions at abriggs@irock.com.au



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