Grebes are a small to medium-sized water fowl that were once classified with loons, but are now listed in a separate family. What separates grebes from most ducks and loons is that the feet of a grebe is not webbed; instead, they have lobed feet, located in the back of the body, which makes them very clumsy walkers. They also have small wings, and are reluctant fliers. In fact, some species of grebes are flightless. What grebes excel at is swimming and diving, using their wings and feet to propel them. They would rather dive under water than fly when frightened. Grebes also have unique feathers that they can use to adjust buoyancy. This small, stocky bird often rides low in the water with just its head and neck exposed.

Pied-bill Grebe

Grebes feed on small fish, crustaceans, insects, leeches, and a small amount of plant material, and even swallow feathers, which are thought to aid in digestion. These water fowl make their homes and nests on floating material in the water. The young can swim soon after birth, but they tend to ride on their mother’s back for the first month or so. One of the most common grebe in the east is the pied-bill grebe, so named because it has a dark vertical bar on its bill. Pied-billed grebes are very shy and secretive, and their brown bodies offer good camouflage in the lakes and swamps where they most often frequent. Pied-bill grebes populations have displayed a decline throughout the northeast, but they are fairly stable elsewhere across the country.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature note for 3/19/21