Red Necked Grebes Dive into Nesting on Lake Ontario

Yes, Red Necked Grebes actually nest ON Lake Ontario. They build their floating nests, preferably anchored to the bottom, atop of the lake itself.

What Do the Chicks Eat?

Photo of Red Necked Grebe Minnow on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Fresh fish for a grebe chick. (June 30)

Unlike the cygnets busily chowing down on water weeds a few yards away in the Marina, the zebra chicks prefer fish. Several times each visit I made to the Grebes, the non-nest-sitting parent arrived bringing one freshly-caught minnow at a time to each chick. In fact on my first visit it was the arrival of a delicious silver minnow that tempted one chick out from under Mother’s wing long enough for me to see it.
Photo of Red Necked Grebe With Fish on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Anyone know what kind of fish this is?

When Do the Chicks Dive Into Life?

Photo of Red Necked Grebe Chick Diving on NaturalCrooksDotCom

This chick was swimming and diving on July 12.

For the first while the chicks prefer to ride on a parent when taking to the water. Soon, though, they begin to dive themselves. I watched one diving on July 12 as its parent preened thoroughly while floating on the water. I didn’t see the youngster eat anything but adult grebes often eat underwater, according to the University of Michigan website, so I can’t conclude anything. That same website says young Grebes usually start swimming at ten to seventeen days of age. It doesn’t specify when they start diving.

Photo of Red Necked Grebe Chick Wing on NaturalCrooksDotCom

By July 12 the chicks were starting to grow wing feathers.

Bill Tapping, Nest Building, Crest Raising and Calling

Even in the short visits I made, I saw many instances of pair-bonding behaviour. At every visit, I saw one bird, which I believe to have been the male based on slightly brighter colours, bring nesting materials. Sometimes these were green bits of land-grown vegetation. Other times they were rather murky looking red-brown seaweeds.

After most of these weeds were added to the nest, and sometimes adjusted by the incubating parent, the pair of grebes would pause and call in unison.

Photo of Red Necked Grebe Pair Call on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Pair calling after bill tapping on July 8.

Sometimes they would call more assertively and their black ear tufts of feathers would be raised.

Several other times, I watched the swimming parent adjusting and tucking bits back onto the nest. “He” kept approaching the nesting bird. Several times “he” was rewarded with a quick simple bill tap, often followed by another joint vocalization.

Want to See the Red Necked Grebes in Oakville?

Photo of Red Necked Grebe Tending Eggs Chick on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Tending the eggs on June 30.

If you are in Oakville Ontario during the late spring and early summer you may want to drop by to see the Grebes. The Bronte Outer Harbour Marina is closest to Bronte Rd. Drive south on Bronte towards Lake Ontario from the Queen Elizabeth Way highway. As you approach the Lake, the road will bend east (left) becoming Ontario St. Drive two short blocks along Ontario turning into the large free parking lot. The nest is in the channel between the pedestrian footpath and the docks to the East of the Compass Restaurant. It’s actually very easy to see being only a few yards off shore with nothing around it.

You may also want to look at the Cliff Swallow nests on the sides of the Showers building and the Compass Restaurant. If you look closely you’ll see House Sparrows have driven Cliff Swallows out of some of their own nests and are using them to raise their own baby sparrows. Not fair!

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