Bizarre deaths and accidents of animals were already covered for several times on the blog, especially in the shit happens-series. Today I want to feature an interesting specimen to continue this topic. This is a partially dissected great crested grebe (Podiceps crestatus) which was found dead, after it tried to gobble an adult European grass snake (Natrix natrix).
I appears that the snake´s body somehow formed a knot around the grebe´s lower jaw, with fatal effects for both opponents. Great crested grebes usually prefer much smaller prey items like small fish in the range of 10-15 cm, sometimes also amphibians and invertebrates. The normal maximum length of their prey is about 25 cm, so this grebe was particularly enthusiastic when it trid to swallow a whole grass snake which likely exceeded its own body length. You can even see the snake´s head in the opened stomach:
The snake inside the grebe
To give you a better idea of the size of the snake inside, I´ve tried to make a simple reconstruction of it. I have to emphasize this is really just a speculative reconstruction, without an X-ray image it´s hard to say how exactly the snake was curled inside the stomach and perhaps the curve I expected for the snake´s body inside the grebe´s esophagus was not curved enough. But anyway, here it is:
The tragic death of the grebe and the snake aside, we see here also an interesting example how unpredictable animal behavior can be. Who would have expected that a grebe would try to attack a snake which is several times as long as its usual maximum prey size for example?
The dissected grebe sadly doesn´t really show the beauty of this elegant kind of waterfowl, so I wanted to finish this blog entry with a somewhat lesser macabre photo. I see grebes comparably often in the wild, but they are usually too shy and too far away to take good photos of them. But several years ago I managed to take some better close-up photos of some grebes at Lake Garda.