Red-necked grebes in Germany
© Edo van Uchelen/Minden Picture
You might be a red-necked grebe if…. Red-necked grebes during breeding season
The red-necked grebe has a bit of a split personality—in fact, it only lives up to its name about half the year. Its feathers are not red but brambly brown and gray throughout the winter, when it lives a low-key, quiet life in salt water along North American and European coasts. But just before it migrates to a northerly lake, pond, or swamp for breeding season, the plumage around the grebe's throat turns a distinctive rust-red. Both males and females undergo the plumage change.
This colorful phase lasts from May to November or so, during which the previously placid bird becomes given to loud calls and rambunctious mating displays. Maybe it's all in the family: Grebes are more closely related to flamboyant flamingos than to their fellow diving seabirds.