Tule Ponds at Tyson

Water birds include those families of birds of which most or all members are associated with open water or wetland habitats.

Pied-billed Grebe
Podilymbus podiceps

The pied-billed grebe appears brown to the observer because its white belly does not show above the water surface.  Its neck is almost as thick as its head.  In spring and summer adults have a black throat and a black band around the whitish bill (pied).  Grebes have no evident tail.  Their large feet are positioned far back on the body to streamline them and enable them to be powerful swimmers and divers. They swim low in the water and sink or dive underwater to pursue prey such as fish, crustaceans, aquatic snails, aquatic insects, nymphs, water boatmen and water beetles.  They can remain submerged for a long time.  They take off from water after a long run on the surface.  Grebes are helpless on land.  They build floating nests so they will not be flooded and so young grebes will be able to reach the water when they are ready to fly.

Double-crested Cormorant
Phalarocrocorax auritus

This is the only one of the three species of cormorants occurring in California that occurs regularly on fresh water.  Adult double-crested cormorants are brownish-black with a green gloss.  In spring they have short curled crests on the head.  They swim low in the water with the tail near or at the surface and the hooked bill tipped up.  When taking flight, they kick along the surface of the water with webbed feet or drop from a perch.   They are often seen perching with their wings spread to dry them in the sun.  They dive underwater to catch fish or small crustaceans.  In China, fishermen place a ring around a cormorant’s neck so that it cannot swallow the fish it catches.  Cormorants nest in trees or on rock ledges.

Canada Goose
Branta canadensis

Canada geese are called “honkers” because of the sound they make in flight. The Canada goose is a dark goose with a brownish body and wings, white lower body and black head, neck and tail. It has a distinctive white chin-strap.  Geese ride high in the water, tipping up to feed. Unlike ducks, geese pair for life. The female goose usually raises one clutch of 4 to 7 large eggs laid from mid-March to June in a grassy nest placed on ground where there is good all-round visibility. Canada geese nest on the levee at Tyson’s Lagoon. The gander (male) vigorously defends the nest and surrounding area. Some birds may double brood, resulting in a rapid increase in their numbers.  Canada geese are very social birds and have adapted so well to urban habitats that they have become pests in local parks and lakes.

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