Birds "Walk" on Water to Impress Mates—Here's How They Do It
Frantic foot slaps and a wonky stride allow "dancing" grebes to skim the surface without sinking, a new study says.
If you think dating is hard, be glad you're not a grebe. These North American waterbirds have high standards when it comes to attracting and keeping a mate: If either a male or female grebe can't "walk" on water, they're out of luck.
A combination of up to 20 steps per second, forceful slaps on the water's surface with splayed feet, and an unusual stride help these grebes defy gravity, researchers report online April 22 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Most animals that can walk on water are really small—like insects—and use surface tension and long limbs to distribute their weight and keep from sinking, says study co-author Glenna Clifton, a doctoral student at Harvard University in Cambridge,