Pied-Billed Grebe

Scientific Name: Podilymbus Podiceps

Diet: Pied-Billed Grebes eat a wide variety of aquatic animals. The majority is aquatic invertebrates, insects, and crustaceans, but they also occasionally eat fish, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic plants.

Habitat: Pied-Billed Grebes have different habitats throughout the year. During the breeding season they live in marshes, swamps, and ponds with emergent vegetation for anchoring their nests. Then, during the winter, they move to more open water such as coastal bays and inlets, but can also be found in most types of wetlands. They are sometimes found in salt water, but are more common in freshwater. During migration they move to higher elevations and can sometimes be found in mountain lakes.

Range: Pied-Billed Grebes can be found in the western and south-eastern U.S. all year long, but only during the breeding season in south-eastern Canada andĀ  the north-eastern U.S. They are common in most of Washington.

Sound: The Pied-Billed Grebe has a distinctive ko-ko-ko-ko song, in which a single, staccato note is repeated several times.

Nesting: Pied-Billed Grebe nests are constructed by both the maleĀ  and the female. The nest is a floating heap of vegetation anchored to emergent vegetation. They lay 3 to 10 eggs, which are incubated for 23 to 27 days by both the male and the female. If the parents are gone from the nest for a long period of time they cover the nest with nesting material for protection. When the young hatch, they are downy. They leave the nest within a day of hatching, but they stay near the nest. The parents sometimes carry their young on their backs. When the young are about 1 to 2 months old, they leave their parents.

Behavior: Pied-Billed Grebes are such skilled divers and swimmers that they have been called hell-divers. They dive from the surface of the water to catch their food both in open water and among vegetation. They are not as social as other grebes, and they are usually found by themselves.

Description/Field Marks: Pied-billed Grebes are fairly plain birds. They are only about 12-15 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 18-24 inches. They are greyish brown all over, with lighter feathers under the tail. During the the breeding season there is a black ring around the white bill (hence pied-billed), but during the winter the ring disappears.


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