Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

Description

The pied-billed grebe is a small, brown diving bird. They have short tails and wings, and legs that are set well back on their bodies. They are rather nondescript except for a black band that encircles their bill and a black throat patch that appears in the summer.

Life History

The pied-billed grebe is one of the most solitary of North American grebes. Although they are tolerant of crowding, they prefer anywhere from at least half an acre to 10 acres of nesting territory. They are very shy and solitary. When startled, the pied-billed grebe dives underwater instantaneously and may also hide in aquatic vegetation.

Pied-billed grebes dive for their food. Their diet is composed primarily of fish, such as catfish, perch, and sunfish. They also eat crawfish and an array of aquatic insects.

As the first to arrive on spring nesting territories and the last to leave in the fall, the seasonally monogamous pied-billed grebe often has two broods in a year. Once they arrive on their nesting territory, the pair will build a sort of floating nest that is attached to vegetation. Nest construction can take three to seven days to complete before the grebes mate and produce two to 10 pale bluish or greenish eggs that eventually are stained with brown. The eggs are incubated by both parents for approximately 23 days until the downy young hatch. The young are very active and often can be found riding on their parents' back.

Habitat

In the winter, the pied-billed grebe may forage in saltwater but, for the most part, they inhabit freshwater ponds, quiet streams and marshes.

Distribution

Pied-billed grebes are one of the most widespread North American grebes. They can be found from Canada, south throughout the United States and into parts of South America. They range throughout Texas, but are most abundant along the Gulf Coast and the eastern half of the state. During the winter, pied-billed grebes retreat from the northern limits of their range to warmer climates.


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