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Muggers - How Red-necked Grebes Got the Name

Nature is complicated...

Few sights are as endearing as a mother Red-necked Grebe with three stripe-headed downy chicks nestled on her back. This species breeds along the shores of northern lakes, with many other grebes and ducks, including Mallards. Red-necked Grebes are excellent divers and can swim under water, coming up from below to attack other water birds. They’ll snatch newly hatched Mallard chicks and pull them down. Nature is complicated. But what appears to us, in Tennyson’s words, as nature “red in tooth and claw” may be the functioning of a balanced ecosystem.

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BirdNote®

Red-necked Grebe – Muggers

Written by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote!
    [Calls of the Red-necked Grebe on a northern lake]
Few sights are as endearing as a mother Red-necked Grebe with three stripe-headed downy chicks nestled on her back. As soon as the last egg hatches, the youngsters climb onto the parent and they leave the nest behind, gliding quietly over the water. This species breeds along the shores of northern lakes, with many other grebes and ducks, including Mallards.
[Female Mallard quacking]
So why do Alaskans, with disgust in their voices, call this bird the “Mugger”? And scientists refer to the bird as highly aggressive?
[Call of Red-necked Grebe]
Well, these grebes are excellent divers and can swim under water, coming up from below to attack other water birds. They’ll snatch newly hatched Mallard chicks and pull them down.
[Call of Red-necked Grebe]
Does the Red-necked Grebe deserve such a name? It is difficult for us to accept a bird killing another bird when the grebe doesn’t eat what it kills. But what appears to us, in Tennyson’s words, as nature “red in tooth and claw” may be the functioning of a balanced ecosystem.
 [Red-necked Grebes and Mallards]
Nature is complicated. You can connect with others, share photos and learn what other listeners are thinking, at our website, birdnote.org.  

###
Sounds of birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Braying calls and others of the Red-necked Grebe [132192] recorded by Gerrit Vyn; female Mallard 3420 and males chattering 3430 recorded by A.A. Allen.
Water lapping recorded by C. Peterson.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org     August 2012   Narrator:  Mary McCann

ID# RNGR-01-2012-08-20    RNGR-01        

comments 2Show

Geographically are these birds found. Any in Minnesota?

Hi Dyna! Here's a helpful resource to find Red-necked Grebes in Minnesota: eBird.org. Or contact your local Audubon chapter to find a bird expert near you.

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