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Critters of the Week

A wild critter we spotted in the RVA area and a critter up for adoption by the Richmond SPCA.




Where Spotted: Tuckahoe Creek Park
Common Name: Pie-billed Grebe
Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps
Length: 11.8-15.0 in (30-38 cm)
Weight: 8.9-20.0 oz (253-568 g)
Wingspan: 17.7-24.4 in (45-62 cm)

Quick Facts Courtesy of Cornell Lab

  • The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.
  • Pied-billed Grebe chicks typically leave the nest the first day after hatching and spend much of their first week riding around on a parent’s back. They usually spend most of their first 3 weeks on or near the nest platform.
  • Pied-billed Grebes are fairly poor fliers and typically stay on the water—although rare individuals have managed to fly as far as the Hawaiian Islands, Europe, the Azores, and the Canary Islands.
  • Pied-billed Grebes can trap water in their feathers, giving them great control over their buoyancy. They can sink deeply or stay just at or below the surface, exposing as much or as little of the body as they wish. The water-trapping ability may also aid in the pursuit of prey by reducing drag in turbulent water.
  • Like other grebes, the Pied-billed Grebe eats large quantities of its own feathers. Feathers may at times fill up more than half of a grebe’s stomach, and they are sometimes fed to newly hatched chicks. The ingested plumage appears to form a sieve-like plug that prevents hard, potentially harmful prey parts from passing into the intestine, and it helps form indigestible items into pellets which they can regurgitate.
  • When in danger, Pied-billed Grebes sometimes make a dramatic “crash-dive” to get away. A crash-diving grebe pushes its body down with its wings thrust outward. Its tail and head disappears last, while the bird kicks water several feet into the air.
  • The longest-lived Pied-billed Grebe on record was at least 4 years, 7 months old and lived in California.

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Bonus Black Bear Picture from Alligator Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina

Florence at Richmond SPCA

Hey duuude! My name is Florence and I think it would be totally rad if we became best buds! I am one cool pup with an awesome personality and I know I’d make a great addition to your family. I love playing with stuffed toys but I’m not all fun and games, I’m also a pretty smart gal. I dig treats and already know how to sit for one. If you’re ready for one far out adventure, you’ve gotta come meet me today!

Age: 3 years, 10 months
Gender: Spayed Female
Color: Black / White
Size: M (dog size guide)
ID: 49334729

Adopt Florence at Richmond SPCA

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.