Hooded Grebe: The Bird that Created a National Park

The hooded grebe is a curious species that's in danger of extinction. This bird migrates during the winter, since the lagoons it lives in freeze.
Hooded Grebe: The Bird that Created a National Park

Last update: 22 January, 2021

Some animals are known for their size, speed, or ability to fly long distances. However, the hooded grebe can be “proud” of creating a national park – in Argentina. Find out more in this article.

Who is the hooded grebe?

Its scientific name is Podiceps gallardoi, and it’s a small bird that lives in the Argentinean Patagonia. Specifically, it lives in the province of Santa Cruz. With an appearance similar to a duck, this bird was discovered in 1974. Its feathers are black and white and it has a black beak, brown head, and a reddish circle around the eyes.

It reproduces in high plateau lagoons, where it lives during spring and summer. That is, between the months of March and September. There, the environment is cold and windy even in the “good” months, and vegetation is scarce, typical of the Patagonian steppe.

When the winter season arrives, the lagoons freeze and the hooded grebe must migrate. For years, researchers studied this animal to determine where it spent its winters. Finally, they discovered that it traveled to estuaries and the Atlantic coast.

Another characteristic that the study of this species revealed is that they fly at night, live in large groups, and swim and dive very well.

Two grebes floating on water in the dark, looking at one another.

Threats to the hooded grebe

The hooded grebe produces a wonderful sexual courtship and, after finding a partner, builds a floating nest. Females lay two eggs, but only one of the chicks survives. One of the main problems of the species is that gulls, the coots, and minks feed on their eggs and young. As for coots and minks, man artificially introduced both to the region.

In addition, we can’t ignore the proliferation of rainbow trout, which eat the hooded grebe’s food. In addition, climate change increases wind speeds and causes great droughts, thus reducing the bird’s reproductive habitat.

The population of this species has decreased by 80% in the last two decades. In fact, experts believe that there are currently only about 800 specimens. To avoid extinction in the coming years, a project was carried out to create a national park to protect them.

The Patagonia National Park and the hooded grebe

One of the symbols of Patagonian nature, the hooded grebe, was responsible for creating a reserve of more than 190 square miles. This is the area where the bird lives and reproduces, which surrounds the important Lake Buenos Aires, in the middle of the steppe.

Currently, a group of biologists is in charge of continuously monitoring the population of the species. They conduct censuses, study its migratory route, evaluate threats, and take direct action. For example, controlling minks and gulls so that they don’t eat the eggs and chicks and, of course, raising awareness in the area communities.

A grebe swimming on the water.

Patagonia National Park was founded in 2014. Besides saving this native “duck”, the objective of the protectionists is to avoid the misuse of the area’s great water reserves. These rivers, streams, and springs guarantee drinking water in a very wide area.

Among these bodies of water, the lagoons and wetlands stand out. There, several migratory birds nest and feed, and of course, the hooded grebe is among them. It’s not the only animal that this enclosure protects, since some species of lizards also live in the area, which scientists haven’t yet studied.

The good news? Since the project began in 2009, and the national park was founded five years later, the number of hooded grebe specimens has stabilized. There’s still a long way to go, since the next step is to make the census yield positive results. That is, to have more specimens than the previous season.

For now, this small bird, quite unknown and vulnerable, has become a symbol of the area and, of course, the ‘founder’ of a national park.

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