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Grebe Pair Walks On Water In Viral Video - Here's How The Birds Do It

3 min read
Basit Aijaz
Basit AijazUpdated on May 12, 2022, 16:53 IST
Indiatimes

Most of us would do anything to win the affection of the partner of our dreams, but few can say they have ever walked on water. Yes, this is exactly what grebes must do to attract and keep a mate. 

The aquatic birds engage in a manoeuvre called rushing, where they run along the surface of the water for up to 20 metres (66 feet) side-by-side as part of an intricate relationship. A video of the same has left the internet amazed. 

Grebes pair walking on water. Screengrab/Twitter

In the clip, grebes can be seen tiptoeing on the surface of the water before they dive into it and disappear, suggesting the water body runs deeper than the size of their feet.

"Love is such a thing... You can even walk on water!" the clip is captioned. 

How do grebes walk on water? 

As surprising as it sounds, there are actually many kinds of animals that can run or walk on water. However, grebes are the largest vertebrates that have this unique ability. 

The grebes' leg movements are extremely fast. They take as many as 20 steps per second. When their broad, lobed feet slap the water's surface, this alone generates about half the force needed to counteract their weight.

At the end of a stride, they retract their feet by drawing them to the side - with the three front toes folded together, which scientists believe helps them to reduce drag underwater before swinging them around and slapping the water again.   

Evolutionary biologist Glenna Clifton and two field assistants travelled to Upper Klamath Lake in southern Oregon, US, one of the most popular grebe breeding sites, to take a closer look at the water birds. 

 Writing in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Clifton shared the team's observations. 

"Few vertebrates run on water. The largest animals to accomplish this feat are western and Clark’s grebes. These birds use water running to secure a mate during a display called rushing," they said. 

"As the largest animals capable of water running, western and Clark’s grebes are probably the best models for human-fabricated designs that produce large forces at the water surface," they added. 

Clifton said that grebes can generate about 50% of the force needed to keep their heads above water by slapping. The rest of the force needed to keep them afloat came from pushing their feet underwater.  

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