Page:Life Histories of North American Diving Birds.djvu/28
BULLETIN 107, UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM.
wade and the canes are so thick that it is almost impossible to push a canoe through them. The few nests that we found were near the edges of small ponds or channels and well concealed in the thick growth; the nests were large and well-made structures of dry, dead canes, 2 or 3 feet in diameter and built up 6 or 7 inches above the water.
The large grebe colonies of the Klamath Lake region in southern Oregon and northern California have been described by several well-known writers. The lakes in this region contain probably the largest western grebe colonies in this country where thousands of them breed in harmony with Caspian and Forster's terns, white pelicans, and other water birds. This region has long been famous as a profitable field for plume hunters, where they have reaped a rich harvest, making $20 or $30 a day and during the height of the breeding season killing several thousand birds a week. The breasts of the western and other grebes were in great demand for the millinery trade; for the paltry sum of 20 cents apiece they were stripped off, dried, and shipped to New York. Such slaughter could not have continued much longer without disastrous results. Through the activities of the Audubon Societies, the attention of President Roosevelt was called to the need of protection, and on August 8, 1908, he set apart the Klamath Lake Reservation, and on August 18, 1908, the Lake Malheur Reservation, thus saving from destruction the largest and most interesting wild-fowl nurseries on the Pacific coast. Mr. W. L. Finley (1907a) has enjoyed good opportunities for studying the western grebes in these colonies and writes thus interestingly of their habits:
Lower Klamath Lake is a body of water about 25 miles long by 10 or 12 miles wide. About its sides are great marshes of tules. The whole border is a veritable jungle, extending out for several miles from the main shore is an almost endless area of floating tule islands, between which is a network of channels. Here, where we found the nesting colony of western grebes, we had good chances to study the habits of these birds.
About one of these islands we found the floating grebe nests every few feet apart, and counted over 60 in a short distance. We rowed up to one end and landed and then waded along just Inside the thick growth of tules that grew along the edge. From this place, partly concealed as we were, we could look through the tules and see the grebes swimming and diving near their nests. Across the channel along the edge of the opposite Island were many more grebe nests, and some of the birds were sitting on their eggs.
The nests of the western grebes were, as a rule, built up of dry reeds higher out of the water than those of the eared grebe. I never saw a case where this bird covered its eggs with reeds before leaving them. Many times we saw them sitting on their eggs during the day. In other cases, they seemed to leave the eggs to be hatched out partly by the sun. The usual number of eggs we found in a set were 3 and 4, although we often found 6 and 7. In several cases, we found places among the dry tules where an extra large set of eggs had been laid. We saw 16 eggs in one set, but there had been no attempt at a nest, and the eggs had never been incubated.