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6240Podiceps auritus - A Living Relative of Juncitarsus

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  • Neal Robbins
    Nov 12, 2013
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          These links have photos of Podiceps auritus.
          Podiceps auritus is a living relative of the Eocene bird Juncitarsus. Podiceps auritus is in the order Podicipediformes and the family Podicipedidae. Juncitarsus is considered to be the sister group of the clade Phoenicopteriformes + Podicipediformes.
          Podiceps auritus is often called the Horned Grebe. This bird is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is found in many countries, including the USA, Canada, Mexico, Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Taiwan. Podiceps auritus lives in close proximity to lakes, ponds, marshes, and rivers. It is known to overwinter in saltwater habitats, for example, bays and exposed shores.
          Podiceps auritus has a length of 31-38 cm. (1.02-1.25 ft.). Its wingspan is 46-55 cm. (1.51-1.80 ft.). The weight range is 300-570 grams (10.6-20.1 ounces). The breeding adults have a reddish breast, and flanks. The throat and back are dark, and the head is almost black. Podiceps auritus has orange-buff to golden ear plumes. The breast is white and the bill is dark. However, the winter plumage is somewhat drab. The throat, cheeks, and breast are white. The nape, crown, and back are dark. Males are slightly heavier than females.
           Breeding occurs between the middle of May and early October. The nest is situated in shallow water and is composed of plant material. Standing vegetation anchors the nest. The female lays a clutch of 3-8 eggs at an approximate rate of one every other day. The eggs are initially white or buff, but soon become stained brown and red from the nest material. Both parents participate in incubating the eggs. Incubation takes 23-24 days.  The chicks can swim and dive immediately after they are hatched. However, they often ride on their parents' back for one week after hatching. The offspring are brooded by the parents for the first nine days and fed for the first two weeks. They are essentially independent when 20-25 days old and are able to fly at 41-50 days of age. Individuals reach breeding maturity when they are about one year old. Podiceps auritus has been known to live up to five years and two months in the wild.
          Podiceps auritus dives for food. It can stay submerged for as long as three minutes. Podiceps auritus mainly eats aquatic arthropods in the summer. Its winter diet largely consists of fish and crustaceans. Horned grebes occasionally consume tadpoles, salamanders, leeches, and plant matter. 
          This publication is a reference:
      B. Handford. 2001. "Podiceps auritus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 12, 2013 at
          Neal Robbins