Faux Duck O’ the Week

John Avise has once again sent photos of a faux duck: a species that looks like a duck but isn’t. Your job is to look at the photos and then guess the species. After you do that, go below the fold for the ID, some Fun Duck Facts, and a range map.  The captions and ducks facts (and, of course, the photos) are John’s:

Basic or non-breeding plumage, side view:

Basic plumage, frontal view:

Another bird in basic plumage:

Preening and showing lobate toes:

Showing propeller-like swimming:

Small group in winter:

Breeding plumage:

Transitional plumage:

Another view of transitional plumage:

Click “read more” for the answer, ducks facts, and a range map.

ID: Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

This is a close relative of the Eared grebe (see last week’s post), which it clearly resembles, especially in its basic or non-breeding plumage.  The species in its alternate or breeding plumage gets its name from the yellow feathers across its head, which the bird can lower or raise to give it a devilishly horned appearance.  Another defining field mark for this species year-round is the tiny white tip to its bill.  Horned Grebes are sexually monomorphic and tend to be monogamous. Like other grebe species, pairs engage in elaborate courtship rituals.  In this case, after head-bobbing and showing off their horns, the male and female dive in synchrony, gather weeds underwater, and then surface together breast-to-breast before beginning to construct a floating nest made of grasses and other plant material anchored to emergent vegetation.  A clutch of about 3-8 eggs is then incubated by both parents until the chicks emerge in about 3-4 weeks.

Here’s a shift change at the floating nest (the “Slavonian grebe” is another name for the horned grebe):

And a range map from the Cornell bird site:


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I got Grebe! I’m learning!

    (Didn’t get the specifics though)

    • nay
      Posted November 22, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Me, too! I said “I want to say ‘grebe’, but that isn’t right – is it?” Hahahahaha.

  2. dawinwins
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I think Faux Duck O’ the Week should be retitled Grebe O’ the Week.

    • Posted November 22, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I wouldn’t be so sure that all the faux ducks are grebes!

    • rickflick
      Posted November 22, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Cormorants could be considered faux ducks.

      • John avise
        Posted November 22, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Stay tuned– grebes are merely one among several groups that we’ll highlight in our faux duck series.

        • dom
          Posted November 23, 2020 at 1:53 am | Permalink

          Call it waterfowl of the week! 👍

  3. Jenny Haniver
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Interesting audio piece on NPR Sunday Edition this a.m., on bringing loons back to Mass. https://www.npr.org/2020/11/22/937708544/scientists-want-to-bring-loons-back-to-massachusetts

  4. Jean Hess
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Faux Duck o’ the Week posts are my favorites.

  5. Posted November 22, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I guessed the Toasted Marshmallow Grebe. :). They’re so cute. Beautiful photos and wonderful video.

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