Grebe and Rails

by Robin Fuller April. 30, 2020 255 views

Grebes are aquatic diving birds of freshwater and, at Seaton anyway, brackish water habitats.

Rails are a large family of small- to medium-sized, ground-living birds. Those I include here all are wetland species.

Little grebes dive for small fish, insects and aquatic molluscs

A Little grebe in summer colours. The oily feathers keep the bird's core plumage dry when it dives. You can see their water-repellant quality here. Layers of air trapped in the underlying feathers also give buoyancy which brings the grebe to the surface like a cork when it returns from a dive.

A Little grebe in summer colours. The oily feathers keep the bird's core plumage dry when it dives. You can see their water-repellant quality here. Layers of air trapped in the underlying feathers also give buoyancy which brings the grebe to the surface like a cork when it returns from a dive.

Little grebe adult in winter plumage, again showing the all-important water-proofing.

Little grebe adult in winter plumage, again showing the all-important water-proofing.

The Tower hide at Seaton gives a view from above, showing a Little grebe as it dives for food.

A Little grebe preparing to dive under the water.

A Little grebe preparing to dive under the water.

The bird is launching into a dive ...

The bird is launching into a dive ...

... and disappears under the water surface showing just a glimpse of its lobed toes.

... and disappears under the water surface showing just a glimpse of its lobed toes.

The bird scours along the bottom of a pool, swimming with broad finned toes.

The bird scours along the bottom of a pool, swimming with broad finned toes.

Coots are also diving birds with broadly lobed toes similar to the grebe's. They eat grass, seeds, shoots, snails, tadpoles and small aquatic invertebrates.

A coot showing clearly the characteristic white head which gives us the expression 'bald as a coot'. The lobed toes are just visible under the water surface.

A coot showing clearly the characteristic white head which gives us the expression 'bald as a coot'. The lobed toes are just visible under the water surface.

A Coot on its floating nest of wet vegetation and debris.

A Coot on its floating nest of wet vegetation and debris.

An adult Coot feeds its chick.

An adult Coot feeds its chick.

The chick is more 'ugly duckling' than cute Coot.

The chick is more 'ugly duckling' than cute Coot.

A juvenile Coot, by now rather more handsome than the chick, is now foraging by itself.

A juvenile Coot, by now rather more handsome than the chick, is now foraging by itself.

Moorhens feed on land and in water. They swim but do not have the webbed of lobed toes of the Little grebe and Coot. As far as I am aware, they do not dive routinely so probably do not need the extra propulsion. They eat seeds, fruits, roots, snails and insects.

Moorhens seek food along the water margin.

Moorhens seek food along the water margin.

An adult Moorhen and chick, the latter with a similar scruffy appearance to that of young Coots.

An adult Moorhen and chick, the latter with a similar scruffy appearance to that of young Coots.

A juvenile Moorhen, now smarter in its dull brown plumage, starting to develop the characteristic yellow end to the bill.

A juvenile Moorhen, now smarter in its dull brown plumage, starting to develop the characteristic yellow end to the bill.

Water rails are mostly secretive and elusive rather than shy, living in dense vegetation such as reeds and overgrown pools. Water rails will eat small birds, voles and dead animals, insects and molluscs, plus seeds and berries.

In a futile quest for the perfect Kingfisher photo, I waited impatiently in the Seaton Classroom bird hide long enough to get these shots of a Water rail. A fair compensation! The Kingfisher will have to wait.

Another Water rail breaks cover as it weaves through the poolside vegetation in a searh for food. Belive me this bird was not hanging about. Shhot quick or lose it.

Another Water rail breaks cover as it weaves through the poolside vegetation in a searh for food. Belive me this bird was not hanging about. Shhot quick or lose it.

Another Water rail breaks cover as it weaves through the poolside vegetation in searh of food. This bird was not hanging about. Shoot quickly or lose it.

Another Water rail breaks cover as it weaves through the poolside vegetation in searh of food. This bird was not hanging about. Shoot quickly or lose it.

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