Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Dori/Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe
Podilymbus podiceps
Duck-like Birds | Family: Grebes, Podicipedidae

An estimated 9% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

On ponds and marshes where it breeds, the Pied-billed Grebe advertises its presence with loud, barking calls. It eats small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects but is especially fond of crayfish, which it crushes easily with its stout bill. When alarmed, this grebe often sinks slowly into the water, resurfacing out of sight among the reeds. But it can also dive with amazing speed, a habit that has earned it the nickname "Hell-diver." It is also called the "Dabchick" in some areas. It is the most common nesting grebe in the East.

Description

12-15" (30-38 cm). Pigeon-sized. A stocky, uniformly brownish water bird, with stout whitish bill that has black ring around it during breeding season.

Voice

A series of hollow cuckoo-like notes, cow-cow-cow-cow, cow, cow, cowp, cowp, cowp, that slows down at the end; various clucking sounds.

Nesting

5-7 whitish eggs, stained brown, in a well-hidden floating mass of dead marsh vegetation anchored to adjacent plants.

Habitat

Marshes, ponds; salt water in winter if freshwater habitats freeze.

Range/Migration

Breeds from British Columbia, southern Mackenzie, and Nova Scotia southward. Winters in southern states or wherever water remains open.