Grebes are back

A Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed grebe

Some Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) have arrived on the lake behind our house. We see this species every winter. Sometimes they stay for a long time; sometimes only a few days. This year there are four, but most years there are three. They stay quite active, swimming and diving for something to eat. This is the only grebe with a wide chicken-like beak and a black stripe across its beak. Common names for this little (12-15 inches long) bird include Dabchick, Devil-diver, and Water Witch. They especially like to eat crayfish, which they crush with their powerful beaks, but will also eat aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and some plants.

Pied-billed grebes will not enter the water when they are very young and sleep on a parent’s back. When about four weeks old, they swim, but will still crawl on a parent’s back if they are frightened. Pied-billed Grebes have a wide distribution in North and South America. They do not need to migrate unless they live in areas where the water freezes in winter. They migrate at night and usually dive to escape danger, so one seldom sees them in flight.


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