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Conservation Of Grebes

Small species of grebes are not often hunted, because their meat is not very tasty, but the larger grebes have been hunted for their plumage. "Grebe fur" is the patch of breast skin with plumage attached, which can be stripped from the dead bird. Grebe fur from the western grebe and great crested grebe was used to make hand muffs, capes, and hats for fashionable ladies, while that of the short-winged grebe was used locally around Lake Titicaca to make saddle blankets.

Grebe populations also suffer from pollution. Species that winter in coastal waters are highly vulnerable to oil spills, and grebes can be killed in large numbers when this type of pollution occurs.

Grebes may also be affected by pesticides. One of the earliest, well documented examples of birds being killed by exposure to chlorinated-hydrocarbon insecticides occurred at Clear Lake, California. This lake is important for recreational use, but there were numerous complaints about a non-biting midge (a tiny, aquatic fly) that could sometimes be extremely abundant. In 1949 this perceived problem was dealt with by applying the insecticide DDT to the lake. This chemical was used again in 1954, and soon afterward about 100 western grebes were found dead on the lake. It took several years of study to determine that the grebes had been killed by the insecticide, which they had efficiently accumulated from the residues in their diet of fish, achieving unexpectedly large, toxic concentrations in their bodies. This case study proved to be very important in allowing ecologists and toxicologists to understand the insidious effects that persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons could achieve through food-web accumulation.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Glucagon to HabitatGrebes - Species Of Grebes, Conservation Of Grebes, Status Of North American Grebes