|A somewhat grainy pic of an Eared Gebe, Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 4/29/2011|
Eared Grebes are not a usual sight in our part of the country of Northern Illinois, as their territory is generally west of the Mississippi River. So I was both surprised and delighted to see a couple of these Grebes in Pierce lake at Rock Cut State Park in the last week of April. At first when I saw them I thought they were Horned Grebes, which I saw for the first time a month earlier. They are very similar looking from a distance. And on a cloudy day with very flat light, heck - even up close, they are similar. The main indicator for telling them apart is the yellow feathering on the sides of their heads. Eared Grebes feathers fan out in wispy plumes from the back edges of their eyes (Above); whereas the Horned Grebes have a more solid patch of yellow that extend to the back of their heads (for more about Horned Grebes, see my 4/29 post ...
The Eared Grebe's neck and head is completely black which makes their firey red eyes glare out in an almost maniacally evil manner. Eared Grebes Spend their summers from about Nevada, Utah and Colorado in the southern edge of their range up to southern half the Canadian territories of British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. Since they winter in the Southwest stretching towards the western shores of the Gulf Coast, the Grebes that leave the Louisianna coast to travel to Manitoba, could find themselves travelling through northern Illinois if winds sent them too far East.
As for me, I am happy to add two species of Grebes on my Life List ( Horned #277). Eared Grebes (#283) were a real bonus this spring.