Snakes Make Bad Necklaces for Birds!

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On the day that I saw my lifer Merlin at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, I turned around from the Merlin to find a Pied-billed Grebe in distress.  The poor grebe had a snake around its neck!  I don’t know exactly how that started.  Was the snake trying to kill the bird?  Or did the bird attack the snake, and the snake was just defending itself?  Either way, I found myself saying “Somebody help that poor bird!”  Snakes make really bad necklaces…

Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
Pied-billed Grebe with Snake “Necklace”

The grebe swam about quickly, trying to pull the snake off.  He twisted back and forth, trying to grab the snake with his beak…

Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
Pied-billed Grebe Trying to Remove Snake
Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
“I can’t find the necklace clasp!”

Apparently violent shaking of the neck only makes the snake tighten his noose. :(

Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck

Finally the bird gripped the snake and started to unwrap it.

Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
Score one point for the bird!

Yay! The bird seemed to be winning as he unraveled the snake.

Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck

The bird dove under the water at this point, and I stood watching, not wanting to leave until I saw the bird emerge from the water snake-free.   I know grebes can stay under the water for a long time, and they can swim pretty good distances while they are under water.  But after a few minutes, the bird still hadn’t come up!  I saw a couple of splashes, but no bird.  I was really sad.

Then I saw a bird emerge farther down.  Undoubtedly it was my bird, and undoubtedly it was snake-free.  The poor bird was stretching its neck repeatedly, shaking and flexing and generally showing relief in having full control of its neck again.  Hooray!

Pied-billed Grebe with Snake Around Neck
Pied-billed Grebe is Snake-Free!

The people on the wildlife drive crack me up.  As I grinned at the bird’s good luck, someone drove by and asked me if I was photographing an alligator.

Nope, not exactly.

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5 thoughts on “Snakes Make Bad Necklaces for Birds!

  1. You always take the most interesting pictures! My heart was beating, hoping that the bird would free itself. I could almost feel the snake around my own neck! Funny how most of us would probably root for the bird and not the snake :)

    I took a picture of a gull in St Augustine this week and was excited to see that it had something in its mouth and I thought “finally! I can be like Jess and have a picture of a bird actually eating some other critter!” but it was just a bit of kelp. I guess birds also need their greens.

    I’ve been wanting to go back to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive since last May but I always forget to. I just blocked time on my calendar to do this soon. Thanks for the great pictures!

    1. Thanks Nathalie! You never know about those pieces of kelp…last time I took a photo like that, it turned out to be a seahorse! Maybe I will run into you on the LAWD soon. I haven’t been a few weeks…but when the migrants start showing up on Lust, you won’t be able to tear me away!

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