Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Critter of the Week Nov. 28: Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

An amazingly cute resident bird seen around Panther Island is the pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). My supervisor calls them "submariners" b/c they like to evade their predators by sinking underwater or diving. Many people think they are a duck b/c their swimming is similar to that of ducks. However, they don't have webbed feet! Instead, each of their toes has these nifty lobes that extend out to increase surface area for paddling. This also happens to be the case for American coots! The pads are pretty stiff but do fold back as the foot is brought forward in the water. They will then flare outward as the foot is brought backward...herein is your increase in surface area! Pretty nifty adaptation if you ask me.

Pied-billed grebes forage on fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. And they do breed on Panther Island. I have seen the young out and about with the parents. They like to breed in areas that have dense stands of emergent vegetation and use all types of wetlands in the winter. I also think they have pretty cool nests. They build the nests by making an open bowl in a floating platform of vegetation. Clutch sizes are 3-10, and the eggs are bluish-white in coloration. The young are capable of leaving the nest within 1 day but usually stay on the platform b/c they don't swim well yet. They will actually sleep on a parent's back where the parent holds them close beneath the wing! By around 4 weeks old they are on the water day and night, but the first ten days they do this their response to danger is to climb onto a parent's back. But they eventually stop doing that and begin to dive to avoid danger. Pretty awesome parenting skills there though!

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