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      Nature Report: Least Grebes

      The Rio Grande Valley is home to a variety of tropical birds like this least grebe that don't venture much farther north than deep South Texas. This pair of grebes is busy raising five youngsters on a Starr County pond.

      The adults are constantly diving and popping up with morsels of algae and insects for their hungry brood. The diminutive least grebe is an aquatic bird that measures less than 10 inches in length and is the smallest member of the grebe family.

      Grebes are a special family of birds similar to loons and ducks, but they sit higher in the water and have pointed beaks and longer, more slender necks. Their legs are contained largely within their body, and their feet stick out far toward the rear enabling them to be very efficient paddlers and divers. After an active morning of paddling after their parents in search of food, the youngsters are ready for a little rest. When the babies are young they ride on their parents back for protection, and even though these youngsters are getting pretty big they still pester them for a ride.

      One way to avoid the demanding chicks is to dive, and that seems to leave this trio somewhat puzzled, as they have not mastered the art of diving just yet. Finally, one makes it on board for a comforting ride, and eventually a pair manages to hitch a lift. They better enjoy the security while they can, because at the rate they are growing they sure won't be able to fit on their parents back much longer. With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore