Reports from the Field

Australasian Grebes Starting a Family

In December 2019 I observed a pair of Australasian Grebes on a nest in the middle of the lake at Lagoon Park, near Secret Harbour Beach. I checked it out each time I went for a walk past the lake hoping to see that chicks had hatched, so you can imagine my concern when I found that extra strong sea breezes around Christmas had pushed the nest into some reeds at the edge of the lake. However, the adults continued to incubate the eggs and on the third of January I found two chicks at the nest with one of the adults. A few days later there were four chicks with both adults busy foraging for food to feed their brood. There appeared to be no system for ensuring each chick received a fair share, the first to swim to mum or dad got the morsel. A check a few days later showed only two chicks had survived, though I don’t know whether the loss of the other two was due to predators or just selection of the fittest.

Watching the adults feed the two remaining chicks was an eye opener for me. I had no idea that they hunted prey such as small fish and even frogs; I had expected them to feed on aquatic larvae such as dragonfly larva. I saw one adult catch what I think was a Slender Tree Frog, thrash it to death on the surface then feed it to its chick, which struggled to swallow it whole! The steady delivery of such food saw the chicks grow quickly and by early February they were foraging for themselves, though still receiving some food from mum and dad. They are still at the lake and appear to be doing well.

Colin Prickett