Little Grebes’ Chasing Display

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“After missing the Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) during my last few visits to their well known hideout at Lorong Halus, I was back in luck in the last week of April 2014. A family of five was spotted, and I was treated to spectacular displays of them chasing each other.

“At first, all seemed peaceful as they foraged in two groups in different parts of the pond (above). Then, in a short spell lasting about four minutes, the serenity of the place was broken. There were plenty of splashes created as they chased each other around in short sudden spurts.

“It began innocently enough with three juveniles gliding gracefully in front of an adult. As the juvenile leading the trio picked up pace to move faster towards the other adult, the adult that was behind the juveniles sprang into action.

“It suddenly surged and lunged forward to race after the juveniles. It seemed to be paddling on the water surface; creating huge waves as it overtook the other two juveniles to go after the first.

“The chase only stopped after the first juvenile dived under the surface after overtaking the other adult.

“After a short break, more games of chasing followed.

“There was no fixed players. The roles of pursuer and pursued were interchanged with no fixed pattern between the adults and juveniles. An adult could be chasing a juvenile, a juvenile chasing an adult, or a juvenile chasing its sibling.

“Some of the chases ended as the pursued dived to disappear below the water surface.

“It was an exciting time and fun watching the Little Grebes chasing each other. The pursuing grebe’s stance was especially interesting. Its neck was mostly stretched or even fully extended, head may be puffed up, and bodies bloated and at times exposed above water.

“At times, the chases became so intense that it seemed to be running on the water surface; even the legs could be exposed above water.

“These games of chasing could be the parents’ way of training the juveniles; stimulating their senses, honing their reflexes and checking their reactions. They must be well prepared for their lifelong journey of survival.”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
2nd May 2014

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