Pied-billed Grebe

Bird of the Month: Pied-billed Grebe

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Pied-bill Grebe)

PC: Mick Thompson (Pied-bill Grebe)

Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps

Length 13.5-14 in

AOU Band code PBGR

The Pied-billed Grebe (PBGR) is 13-1/2 to 14" long. Common, but not gregarious, on fresh and brackish water. Scarce on salt water in winter. The breeding adult is brown overall, with a black ring around a stout, whitish bill. It has a black chin and throat with a pale belly. In the winter the PBGRs lose the bill ring, the chin is white and the throat is tinged with pale rufous. Juvenile birds resemble winter adult but throat is much redder, conspicuous eye ring is absent, and head and neck are streaked with brown and white.

During breeding, its call include a loud cow cow cow cow cow, a loud keck keck when alarmed, and a soft cuk cuk cuk. It is usually quiet in the winter.  It feeds by diving underwater and catching fish, aquatic insects, frogs and crayfish.

The nest is an inconspicuous, shallow sodden platform of decaying vegetation, reeds and grass anchored in water among reeds and rushes. The female lays 4-7 bluish-green eggs. Incubation is 23 days. The young are carried on the back of an adult, sometimes even during dives. It sinks to hide, leaving only the head exposed. One nest could be seen in June-July from the viewing deck at Phantom Lake. Four young were hatched from July 8-11.

Martin Muller has been studying the PBGRs on Green Lake for many years. An extensive report of this study was published in Washington Birds 4 dated Dec. 1995 by the Wash. Ornithological Society.