Dabchicks, Fluffy Feathers Inside And Out!
Lovely walk in warm, bright sunshine along the River Stort with my daughter and our hounds. Frankie dog, being half poodle, is very interested in water and waterfowl. Neither she nor her mistress had seen little grebes, or dabchicks as I call them, before. How nice to see four fishing together.
Reading around the subject I came across The Little Grebe by David Campbell.
".... And while he yarned, I watched the little grebe,
Appear and disappear.
The dam filled up with clouds, and when the bird
Bobbed there again, the sky and dam were clear.
So I half-listened to my father's life,
Considering the grebe
And how it fed its feathers to its young
On rafts amongst the reeds.
Those floating incubators hatched the eggs. ...."
"Fed its feathers to its young", I thought that sounded a bit far-fetched but they do just that! Small, soft, contour feathers from the adult's flanks are the first thing a little grebe hatchling is fed.
"Some of the ingested feathers form a plug in the pylorus, between the stomach and small intestine, which acts as a strainer to keep fish bones in the stomach long enough to be completely digested. Most swallowed feathers end up in the stomach lumen, mixed with food. They eventually (along with any indigestible matter) form pellets that are ejected through the mouth. The continuous passage of these pellets through the upper digestive system minimizes the buildup of a variety of parasites that are very common there and plague grebes."