Today, we’ll look at some of the waterfowl that share the area with the ducks we have already started with.  Our first bird, the American Coot, is sort of like a duck, but is not closely related at all – it’s actually related to the rails and gallinules, chicken-like birds of marshes (primarily),  This one is very distinctive, due to its all-black body and bright white bill.  Although it swims like a duck, its feet are just big chicken feet with broad lobes on the toes that give it some swimming power.

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The next birds are related members of a group of birds called grebes – small to medium-sized diving birds that tend to have relatively long necks and small heads with pointed beaks.  In the winter, our grebes tend to be relatively nondescript birds; just dark on the back and light on the front.  The two that we’re most likely to run into on winter ponds and other water areas are the stubby little Pied-billed Grebe, which may or may not have the black ring showing on the little, triangular beak,

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And the similar-sized, longer-necked, red-eyed, more black and white Horned Grebe, with its longer, thin bill.  Both birds dive frequently, and may be found on their own or in small groups.

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The last two birds today are sometimes mixed up when we’re first starting out, especially when they’re swimming, but a few moments of study shows what to look for with them.  First, the Common Loon, with its relatively thick beak that tapers to a point, usually swims with its big head low on its thick neck, looking ahead or very slightly upwards.

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Meanwhile, the Double-crested Cormorant usually holds its small head up on its long, thin neck, with its long, narrow beak pointed right up in the air.  Both birds dive fairly frequently when not loafing on the surface, but the Cormorant will often swim with its body low in the water, or even sometimes fully underwater, with only its neck and head showing.

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