Feather Fact #4 – Feather light Meals for Grebes

If you were a newly hatched Pied-billed Grebe chick, one of your first meals might be feathers. Not by accident either, grebe adults also eat feathers as well as feed them to their young. As a matter of fact, research has shown grebe stomach contents consisting of 52% feathers. Talk about eating light!

So where do they get all the feathers to ingest? They pluck out their own, primarily from the flank area. Those feathers actually continue to molt throughout the year, an adaptation that renders a continuous supply of the fluffy meal. Now, you are surely asking yourself, so why are they eating all these feathers anyway? The leading theory seems to be that it helps them with pellet casting once any hard bony bits in the stomach are digested, and that the pellet ejections minimize the buildup of parasites.

Source: Muller, Martin J. and Robert W. Storer.(1999).Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/pibgre