The small head and neck on this stocky bodied bird give it a comical appearence. These birds feed exclusively on aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and fish. Forages both at the water surface and by diving and swimming underwater. During migration and winter they often assemble in large flocks. These birds are seldom seen in flight, except during migration.
General: The appearence of this bird is dramatically different between winter and breeding season. Small and stocky body. Pointed crown. Red eye. Thin black bill with upward pointed tip. Sexes similar. 9 to 13 inches in length.
Breeding: Black head and back with a golden ray of ear feathers behind it's red eye. Black crest. Reddish flanks.
Winter: Dark gray upperparts, white underparts. Whitish patch behind ear. Dusky neck. Gray smudged face.
Marsh lakes. Open ocean and bays in winter.
3-5 bluish-white eggs with brown stains and a 20-22 day incubation period. Fledging occurs 21 days after hatching. The nest is a floating platform of weeds anchored to some vegetation in shallow water. Usually built in a marsh. Nests in large colonies. Newborn chicks spend the first week or two riding around on their parent's back.
- Lake Murray, La Mesa
- South Bay at 7th St, Imperial Beach
- Tijuana River Estuary, Imperial Beach
- Crown Point, Mission Bay