Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE RED-NECKED GREBE.
PODICEPS RUBRICOLLIS, Lath.
PLATE CCCCLXXX.--MALE AND YOUNG.
I have found this species along the coast from New York to Maine, in the
winter season, when old and young were generally in about equal number. At
Boston I procured several specimens. On the Bay of Fundy, and among the islands
at its entrance, I saw these Grebes already in their spring plumage, it being
then the beginning of May. On one occasion our boat was rowed over an eddy in
which a pair had dived in search of food. On emerging they were only a few
yards distant; but, although several guns were fired at them, they escaped
unhurt, for they instantly dived again, passed under the boat at the depth of
about a yard, and did not rise until at a safe distance. None of us could
conceive how they had managed to elude us, for as they were so near, the shot
threw up the water in its course, and I had expected to find them completely
Although I have seen this species far up our salt-water bays, I never
observed it on any of the southern fresh-water ponds or rivers. Dr. RICHARDSON
states, in the Fauna Boreali-Americana, that it "is very common in the Fur
Countries, frequenting every lake with grassy borders." M. TEMMINCK says "that
they inhabit rivers, lakes, and the borders of the sea, but in greater number on
fresh-waters; are tolerably common in different parts of Europe; feed on small
fish, fry, amphibious reptiles, insects, and vegetables; form their nests of the
same materials, and place it in the same situations as the Crested Grebe, and
lay three or four eggs." An egg lent me by my esteemed friend Mr. YARRELL,
measured two inches in length by one inch and a quarter in breadth, and was of a
uniform pale greenish-white.
PODICEPS RUBRICOLLIS, Bonap. Syn., p. 417.
PODICEPS RUBRICOLLIS, Red-necked Grebe, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer.,vol. ii. p. 411.
RED-NECKED GREBE, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 253.
RED-NECKED GREBE, Podiceps rubricollis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii. p. 617;vol. v. p. 620.
Male, 18 3/4, 32.
During winter, not uncommon from New York to Maine. Breeds in the Fur
Countries. Accidental in the interior.
Bill about the length of the head, straight, rather slender, compressed,
acute. Upper mandible with the dorsal line straight and slightly sloping to the
middle, then slightly convex, the ridge convex, the sides sloping, towards the
end erect and convex, the edges acute and inflected. Nasal groove extending to
the middle of the mandible; nostrils sub-basal, linear-elliptical, pervious.
Lower mandible with the angle long and extremely narrow, the dorsal line
ascending, and straight, the sides erect, slightly convex, the edges sharp,
inflected, the tip narrow, very acute.
Head of moderate size, oblong, compressed. Neck long and slender. Body
depressed. Feet large, placed very far behind; tibia feathered almost to the
joint; tarsus short, extremely compressed, anteriorly with a narrow scutellate
ridge, laterally with very broad scutella, posteriorly with a narrow ridge
having a double row of small prominent scales. Hind toe very small, with an
inferior small membrane; fore toes long, the outer longest, scutellate above,
united at the base by short webs, externally margined with narrowish, internally
with broad, lobe-shaped expansions, which are marked with parallel oblique
lines, and crenate on the edges. Claws flattened, that of the middle toe
broadest, with an extremely thin, broad terminal edge.
Plumage of the head and neck very soft and downy, of the breast and sides
silky and highly glossed, of the abdomen and rump downy, of the upper parts
imbricated, but with loose edges. Wings small; primaries much curved, the first
longest, the second almost equal, the inner secondaries extending beyond the
first primary when the wing is closed. Tail a small tuft of loose feathers. On
the head is a tuft of elongated feathers on each side behind the eye, and those
of the posterior part of the cheek are also elongated.
Bill brownish-black, bright yellow at the base. Iris carmine. Tarsi and
toes greenish-black externally, yellow on the inner side, the edges of the lobes
dusky. Upper part of the head greyish-black, lower part ash-grey, with a white
line from the base of the lower mandible to beyond the eye. Hind part of the
neck, and upper parts generally, greyish-black; the feathers edged with pale
brown; the edge of the wing and the outer secondaries white. The fore part and
sides of the neck rich brownish-red; the breast and sides are of a silvery
white, faintly marked with grey.
Length to end of rump-feathers 18 3/4 inches, to end of wings 16 1/2, to
end of claws 24; extent of wings 32; wing from flexure 7 1/4; bill along the
back 1 8/12, along the edge of lower mandible 2 3/8; tarsus 2; outer toe 2 1/2,
its claw 1/4. Weight 23 oz.
Young after first moult.
Bill bright yellow, the ridge of the upper mandible dusky. Iris pale
yellow. Feet as in the adult. The upper part of the head blackish-grey, the
hind neck, and the upper parts generally, of the same colour, but darker towards
the rump; the edge of the wing and the outer secondaries greyish-white, the
latter grey towards the end. The lower parts greyish-white.
Female from Dr. T. M. BREWER. Length to end of tail 19 1/2 inches, to end
of wings 17 1/2, to end of claws 24 1/4; wing from flexure 7 3/4; tail 1 3/4;
extent of wings 32 1/4; bill along the ridge 1 10/12; tarsus 2 2/12; hind toe
7/12, its claw (1 1/2)/12; second toe 1 11/12, its claw (3 1/2)/12; third toe
2 (4 1/2)/12, its claw 5/12; fourth toe 2 9/12, its claw 3/12.
The mouth is narrow, 9 1/2 twelfths in width; the palate slightly convex,
with two faint lateral ridges on each side; its anterior part extremely narrow,
with three longitudinal ridges, the lower mandible still narrower, and deeply
channelled. Tongue 1 inch 7 twelfths long, slender, tapering to a thin horny
point, trigonal, as deep as broad, fleshy and concave above, horny beneath.
OEsophagus, Fig. 1 [a b c],
10 3/4 inches long; its width uniformly 1/2 inch along the
neck; the proventriculus, [b c], however, is dilated to a very large ovate sac
nearly 1 1/2 inches broad, 1 inch 9 twelfths in breadth. The stomach,
[c d e f], is of enormous size, roundish, slightly compressed, 2 1/4 inches in
diameter; its muscular coat reduced to a single series of large fasciculi; its
tendons, [e], circular, 9 twelfths in breadth; the epithelium thick, soft,
longitudinally rugous. The proventricular glands are of a cylindrical form, the
largest being 1/2 inch long, and 1 twelfth in breadth; they form a complete belt
1 1/3 inches in breadth. The inner coat of the stomach is destitute of
epithelium, being quite soft and smooth. The stomach, therefore, is in all
respects similar to that of the truly piscivorous birds, such as Divers and
Herons, and totally different in structure from that of the Coots, to which the
Grebes might be supposed to be allied, on account of the structure of their
feet. On the other hand, they differ from the Divers and Cormorants in the form
of the oesophagus, which in these birds is extremely wide, whereas in the Grebes
it is exceedingly contracted, and more resembles that of the Coots, Gallinules,
and Rails. The proventriculus is intermediate between that of the birds just
mentioned and the Cormorants. There is a pyloric sac of small size,
approximating to that of the Pelican family. The stomach is moderately
distended with a great quantity of feathers, apparently those of the bird
itself, or of some species of the same genus. These feathers are intermixed
with vertebrae of small fishes, easily distinguishable by their concave surfaces
and three prominent spines. The duodenum curves round the stomach, returning at
the distance of 5 1/2 inches, ascending to the liver as usual, passing down the
right side, and forming several convolutions, the number of turns being twelve.
Its length is 33 inches; its width 1/2 inch at the upper part, towards the
rectum only 3 twelfths. The coeca are 2 inches long, 2 twelfths in breadth,
uniform, unless at the base, where they are narrower; their distance from the
extremity 3 inches. The cloaca is globular, 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
The trachea is 9 1/4 inches long, of the nearly uniform width of 3 1/4
twelfths, unless at the lower part, when it is narrowed to 2 twelfths; flattened
in its upper half, and compressed in the lower; the rings moderately firm, 180
in number. The Grebes differ from almost all other birds in having the
bronchial rings complete and firmly ossified. In the present species, they are
only 8 in number, the remaining part of the bronchi being membranous. There are
the usual cleido-tracheal muscles; the sterno-tracheal, part of which is
continuous with the lateral muscles, but the inferior portion distinct, and
attached to several of the rings; there is also a single pair of inferior
The jugular veins are of vast size and toward the lower part of the neck
form an immense dilatation; that of the left side being distended with
coagulated blood to 9 twelfths of an inch, and so continuing until it enters the
heart. The other is 1/2 inch in breadth. In this respect there seems to be an
analogy to the diving mammifera, such as the seals and dolphins.