Saturday, April 09, 2005


Strange Birds

I'd have thought this week's TLS review of Jon Fjeldsa's ornitholgy volume The Grebes was an April Fool's joke if it weren't for the April 5th issue date. The grebe, it seems, is a mighty peculiar bird:

The Great Crested Grebe, promoted by Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop to be the avian patron of journalists everywhere, has many unusual and appropriate habits. This bird needs a daily diet of light and fluffy feathers, either eaten from its own back or from the backs of friends and colleagues. It likes permanent liquid surroundings, and staggers inelegantly on land, particularly when failing to differentiate a road from a river at night. It depends on fiercer birds to protect the exclusivity of its possessions from rivals, and sometimes rewards those guards with a small egg in exchange..... The threatened grebes of Lake Titicaca hold a “bumping ceremony”, followed by a kind of synchronized line-dance by birds in an upright posture, sometimes more than twenty at once in a rushing row.

Really, any article that refers to Lake Titicaca should be a hoax -- but no, this is a real book. Even so, the grebe still has a ways to go before it can top duck necrophilia.

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