“Swift As Meteors”

Pied-billed Grebe

Though the species is well known to be migratory, individual Pied-billed Grebes strike me (misleadingly) as among the most sedentary of birds. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen one in anything even approaching truly sustained flight, and sometimes I wonder whether they don’t use some sort of subterranean Northwest Passage to move through the continent’s aquifers with the seasons.

John James Audubon had more confidence in the grebes’ aerial abilities, which he describes in a decidedly overwrought apostrophe in the Ornithological Biography:

I know you can fly too…. September has come … the evening is calms and beautiful; you spread out your wings, reach with some difficulty a proper height, and swift as meteors glide through the air, until, meeting with warmer waters, you alight on them.

Poetic lie-cense, I guess we can call it.