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Grebes

Cultures reported to have hunted grebes include Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), those of Southeastern Alaska (including Tlingit), and Red Earth Cree, among others. Grebe was reported to no longer be eaten by the Tlingit [1]. Species documented to have been hunted include Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe and Western Grebe [1-4].

Grebes are recorded to have been hunted with bow and arrow in Southeastern Alaska [1].  The Carrier shot the birds, and also set nets above the water for grebe flocks arriving in April. When the birds flew into the nets, hunters wrung the necks. Grebes were roasted on a spit, with the fat allowed to drip into birch bark trays. The liquid fat was stored in dried salmon skins for use in winter [5].

Plains cultures were known to use grebe skin to make ceremonial medicine bundles. The skin was stuffed with grass or hemp and was said to have special healing powers. The Arikara made similar medicine parcels, using Western Grebe skins [2].

References

1.         Jacobs M, Jr., Jacobs M, Sr.: Southeast Alaska Native Foods. In: Raveu's Bones. edn. Edited by Hope A; 1982: 112-130.

2.         Olsen SL: Animals in American Indian Life: An Overview. In: Stars Above, Earth Below American Indians and Nature. edn. Edited by Bol MC. Dublin: Roberts Rinehart Publishers; 1998: 95-118.

3.         Russel F: Explorations in the Far North. In: Explorations in the Far North. edn. Iowa: University of Iowa; 1898.

4.         Meyer D: Appendix I: Plants, Animals and Climate; Appendix IV: Subsistence-Settlement Patterns. In: The Red Earth Crees, 1860-1960. Volume 1st edition, edn.: National Musem of Man Mercury Series; 1985: 175-185-200-223.

5.         Hall L: Livelihood. In: The Carrier, My People. Volume 1st edition, edn. Cloverdale, BC: Friesen Printers; 1992: 10-17.

Grebes are a family of duck-like birds that are closely associated with water. They range in appearance from large, elegant, long-billed birds to small, stocky, short-billed birds, but they all dive for their food [1]. In North America, grebes include the Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena), the Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), the Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), and the Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis).

The Red-necked Grebe breeds throughout most of Canada west of Ontario, and overwinters in northern coastal waters either along the Pacific or the Atlantic. They have a black cap with a small crest, white cheeks and chin, a long reddish brown neck, dark upperparts, a pale belly, black eyes, and a long thick yellow bill. They are a large grebe, weighing between 0.8 and 1.6 kg. They nest on shallow freshwater lakes or marshes and form monogamous couples that are renewed each year. They feed mainly on fish, crustaceans, and insects [2].

The Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) also breeds throughout most of Canada west of Ontario, and overwinters in coastal waters either along the Pacific or the Atlantic. They are a medium-sized grebe, weighing between 300 and 570 g, and have a dark short bill with a pale tip and bright red eyes. The non-breeding plumage is mostly blackish gray with white cheeks, chin, and front of the neck, while the breeding plumage is more reddish brown, except for a whitish belly and patch behind the eyes that extends into an erectable crest. They nest on shallow freshwater ponds and marshes with abundant emergent vegetation, feeding mainly on aquatic insects, and form monogamous couples renewed each year [3].

The Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) is the most abundant North American grebe, breeding throughout interior Canada and western United States and overwintering along the Pacific coast (southward from British Columbia) and across southern North America. They are a medium-sized grebe, weighing between 250 and 600 g, and have a dark short bill and bright red eyes. They are mostly blackish gray, except for a white rump and belly in the nonbreeding season and for reddish brown sides and a golden crest behind the eyes in the breeding season. They nest on shallow water bodies with abundant vegetation and aquatic insects [4].

The Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) is a large grebe, weighing between 0.8 and 1.8 kg, and breeds in interior North America, south of the Canadian Prairies and across western United States, and overwinters along the Pacific coast southwards from British Columbia. They have a black cap extending below the eyes, dark upperparts, a long slender neck with white in the front connecting the white chin and cheeks to the white underparts, bright red eyes, and a long greenish yellow bill. They feed mainly on fish and nest on freshwater lakes with large open water areas and surrounded by abundant emergent vegetation [5].

References

1.         FjeldsÃ¥ J: The grebes: Podicipedidae. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2004.

2.         Stout BE, Nuechterlein GL: Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena). In: The Birds of North America Online. Edited by Poole A. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; 1999.

3.         Stedman SJ: Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). In: The Birds of North America Online. Edited by Poole A. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; 2000.

4.         Cullen SA, Jehl JJR, Nuechterlein GL: Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis). In: The Birds of North America Online. Edited by Poole A. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; 1999.

5.         Storer RW, Nuechterlein GL: Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis). In: The Birds of North America Online. Edited by Poole A. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; 1992.

 

Distribution maps provided below, unless otherwise stated, were obtained from Birds of North America Online http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/, maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and all pictures provided below were obtained from Encyclopedia of Life http://www.eol.org.
Red-necked Grebe
Supplier: Wikimedia Commons
Photographer: Martin Olsson
Horned Grebe
Supplier: BioLib.cz
Photographer: Dewhurst, Donna
Eared Grebe
Supplier: Wikimedia Commons
Western Grebe
Supplier: Wikimedia Commons
Photographer: mikebaird