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Overview

Brief Summary

Podilymbus podiceps

A small (13 inches) grebe, the Pied-billed Grebe in summer is most easily identified by its gray-brown body, black chin, and conspicuous black bill stripe. In winter, this species loses its black facial adornments, becoming plain gray-brown overall. Male and female Pied-billed Grebes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Pied-billed Grebe breeds across much of the United States, southern Canada, and the northern half of Mexico. In winter, northerly-breeding Pied-billed Grebes abandon their breeding grounds and migrate south as far as southern Mexico and Central America; populations that breed further south are non-migratory. Other non-migratory populations exist in the West Indies, at isolated sites in Central America, and in South America south to central Argentina. Pied-billed Grebes breed on small lakes and ponds, preferring heavily vegetated areas for nest-building and more open areas for feeding. This species utilizes similar habitat types in winter as in summer. Pied-billed Grebes primarily eat small fish, insects, and crustaceans. In appropriate habitat, Pied-billed Grebes may be observed floating low in the water, periodically diving down to capture prey. Many birdwatchers learn to appreciate the Pied-billed Grebe’s ability to quickly sink into the water with minimal surface disturbance when, after returning their attention to the water after a momentary distraction, they discover the bird has “vanished” without a trace. Pied-billed Grebes are primarily active during the day, but migrating birds fly mainly at night.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: southeastern Alaska through southern Canada to Nova Scotia, south locally through North America, Middle America, West Indies, and South America to central Chile and southern Argentina (AOU 1983). Breeding populations in the northeastern U.S. are more localized and less abundant than in other regions of the U.S. or Canada (Gibbs and Melvin 1992). NON-BREEDING: southern British Columbia, western and southern U.S. south through South America. Rare visitor in Hawaii (AOU 1983). Areas of highest winter concentration include southern and central Texas, Great Salt Lake (Utah), Lake Mead (Nevada-Arizona), and the San Joaquin Valley (California) (Root 1988).

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North America
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Geographic Range

Pied-billed grebes breed on the coasts of Alaska, and throughout Canada and the United States. They also breed in some areas of the Caribbean and in South America to central Chile and southern Argentina.

Pied-billed grebes migrate with other birds from the northern United States and Canada, where lakes freeze over in winter, to southern North America, South America and the Caribbean.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • American Ornithologists' Union, 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union.
  • McLaren, I. 1998. The winter season, December 1, 1997 to February 28, 1998, Atlantic provinces region. Field Notes, 52: 164-166.
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Geographic Range

Pied-billed grebes breed on the Alaskan coasts, and throughout Canada and the United States. They also breed in some areas of the Caribbean, such as Bermuda and the West Indies and in South America to central Chile and southern Argentina (American Ornithologists' Union, 1998; McLaren, 1998).

Pied-billed grebes migrate with other birds from the northern United States and Canada where bodies of water tend to freeze to southern parts of North America and along South America and the Caribbean (Muller and Storer, 1999).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • American Ornithologists' Union, 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union.
  • McLaren, I. 1998. The winter season, December 1, 1997 to February 28, 1998, Atlantic provinces region. Field Notes, 52: 164-166.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Pied-billed grebes are small duck-like birds. They weigh 253 to 568 g and are 30.5 to 38.1 cm long. They have an average wingspan of 16 cm.

During the breeding season, pied-billed grebes are dark brownish on their upper parts and grayish on the sides of their neck and body. They have a black patch on their throat, and white ring around the eye. Their bill is thick and chicken-like, and is bluish-white with one thick black stripe, like a black band around it. These birds also have a puffy white undertail. In winter, pied-billed grebes look similar, but they do not have a black patch on their throat or a black stripe on the bill. Their neck and flanks also turn reddish in the winter.

Male and female pied-billed grebes look alike. Juvenile birds look similar to winter adults, but have light and dark stripes on their head and neck.

Range mass: 253 to 568 g.

Average mass: 450 g.

Range length: 30.5 to 38.1 cm.

Average length: 33.02 cm.

Average wingspan: 16 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Godfrey, W. 1986. The Birds of Canada. National Museum of Cananda, Ottawa.
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Physical Description

In breeding season, pied-billed grebes have dark brownish plumage on their upper parts and grayish plumage on the sides of their neck and flanks. They have a black patch on their throat with a whitish outline; the black extends to the malars. They have a conspicuous white ring around the eye. Their bill has a slight hook and is very distinct in breeding season when it has a bluish white color with a distinct black vertical bar. The belly and underwing are whitish as are the under tail-coverts (Godfrey, 1986).

The winter plumage tends to consist of a pale throat, and a fleshy colored bill with no black markings. Upper parts are similar to breeding plumage, however, the sides of the neck and flanks are reddish brown.

The only distinguishing characteristic of juvenile plumage is that the bill is a dull orange color and there are sometimes white markings on the side of the head. Sexes are alike (Muller and Storer, 1999).

Pied-billed grebes weigh 253 to 568 g, are 30.5 to 38.1 cm long and have a wingspan of 16 cm on average.

Range mass: 253 to 568 g.

Average mass: 450 g.

Range length: 30.5 to 38.1 cm.

Average length: 33.02 cm.

Average wingspan: 16 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Godfrey, W. 1986. The Birds of Canada. National Museum of Cananda, Ottawa.
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Size

Length: 34 cm

Weight: 442 grams

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Diagnostic Description

A short, stout, chicken-like bill with a broad, black band in the middle, large head and elongated neck, white orbital ring, black throat patch and forehead, and drab, brownish plumage throughout except for white under the tail (Palmer 1962, Cramp 1977).

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: BREEDING: In eastern U.S., occurs in ponds, sloughs, and marshes, in marshy inlets and along edges of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, and occasionally in estuarine wetlands (Palmer 1962, Chabreck 1963, Cramp et al. 1977, Andrle and Carroll 1988). Nests are typically built in shallow water surrounded by dense vegetation, especially cattail (TYPHA spp.) and bulrush (SCIRPUS spp.), and are farther from shore than from open water (Glover 1953, Stewart 1975, Faaborg 1976, Sealy 1978, Forbes et al. 1989). Wind and waves are major threats to floating nests and surrounding emergent vegetation acts as a wave break, anchors the nest, and conceals the nest from predators (Forbes et al. 1989). Because the direction of wind and waves shifts frequently during the nesting season, sheltered nesting sites can be limiting (Faaborg 1976). In Nova Scotia, avoided nesting on edges of stands of emergent vegetation that were exposed to wave action, and nest-site selection was related to structure but not type of vegetation available (Forbes et al. 1989). In comparison to randomly chosen marsh locations, nests were characterized by greater distance from shore, increased proximity to open water, and deeper water (Forbes et al. 1989).

Microhabitats at Manitoba wetlands included the densest and tallest stands of emergent vegetation available, particularly those in deeper portions of ponds (Nudds 1982). In Iowa, always associated with dense stands of emergent, littoral vegetation, and avoided wetlands with 100% open water (Faaborg 1976). On moist-soil impoundments in Missouri, habitat use was associated with water > 25 cm deep and vegetative cover characterized as "open, sparse, or short" (Fredrickson and Reid 1986). Grebe use was not associated with shallower waters or "dense" or "rank" emergent vegetative cover (Fredrickson and Reid 1986).

NON-BREEDING: Habitats in winter and migration similar to breeding areas (Cramp 1977), but many shift to more exposed areas on brackish, estuarine waters or sheltered inlets on large lakes, rivers, and salt water (Palmer 1962). Root (1988) noted that the densest overwintering populations occur on wide rivers and large lakes.

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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During the breeding season, pied-billed grebes live in freshwater ponds and lakes or somewhat brackish waters. They usually live in areas with aquatic plants that stick out of the water and provide good nest sites. Pied-billed grebes use the same type of habitat in the winter as long as the water does not freeze.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; brackish water

Wetlands: marsh

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

  • Muller, M., R. Storer. 1999. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 410. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc..
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During the breeding season, pied-billed grebes reside in freshwater ponds or lakes to moderately brackish waters. They usually live in areas with emergent or aquatic vegetation which provides good nest site locations. In the winter season, they use the same type of habitat as long as the water is not frozen.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; brackish water

Wetlands: marsh

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

  • Muller, M., R. Storer. 1999. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 410. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc..
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Depth range based on 4 specimens in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Northern populations are migratory (south to western Panama), southern populations are sedentary (AOU 1983). Northward migration begins in March, and arrival at nesting areas in April and early May is dependent on timing of spring thaw (Cramp et al. 1977). Occasionally occurs in close-massed flocks during migration. Fall migration is protracted and begins in August, with the majority of migrants moving south between September and November (Cramp et al. 1977). Migration usually takes place at night. Freezing temperatures sometimes force birds to move short distances southward during mid-winter. During winter, may occur in large, dispersed flocks occasionally of more than 1,000 birds and commonly 100 birds.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Dives from surface; eats mainly fishes, crustaceans, insects; also amphibians, other invertebrates, and some plant material (Terres 1980). Forages mainly by short dives in shallow water. Wetmore (1924) analyzed stomach contents of 174 pied- billed grebes collected during different seasons from localities throughout North America. The diet was dominated by fish (24% by volume, including catfish, eels, perch, sunfish, suckers, carp, and minnows), crustaceans (31%), and insects (46%). Most crustaceans taken were crayfish, and insect food was predominantly Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), Heteroptera (bugs), and Coleoptera (beetles). A strong seasonal shift in diet was observed; fish were important foods during the nonbreeding season, but were relatively unimportant during nesting. Odonates, only 8% of the overall annual diet, constituted 34% of the diet during July and August.

Eight stomachs from British Columbia contained mostly fish, while Odonates comprised most of the contents of stomachs from three downy young (Munroe 1941). Palmer (1962) reported that grebes fed principally on leeches during the breeding season in South Carolina. Stomachs from Pennsylvania contained fish, frogs, aquatic insects, especially beetles, and aquatic plants (Warren 1890). The stout bill and heavy jaw musculature (Zusi and Storer 1969) may be adaptations that enable grebes to take larger fish than other sympatric species of grebes (Forbes 1989).

Feather-eating is an unusual aspect of the diet. Wetmore (1924) observed feathers in 52% of the 174 stomachs he examined, and adults sometimes feed feathers to their chicks (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Feather-eating may pad and protect the stomach and trap fish bones so that bones can dissolve slowly in the stomach rather than passing directly into the fragile intestine (Storer 1961). Also, hard, indigestible materials, such as chitin and bones, may be felted together with feathers prior to regurgitation as pellets (Storer 1961).

Pied-billed grebes have a number of morphological adaptations for pursuing prey underwater. Their toes are lobed and their tail is short and rudder-like. Their feet are situated far back on the body and can be pivoted high above the back to permit quick forward propulsion and a high degree of maneuverability underwater (Fjeldsa 1975, Cramp et al. 1977). Their small, narrow wings also are used for underwater swimming (Forbush 1925). The eyes of pied-billed grebes have cone-dense retinas that permit detection of small prey at close range in shallow waters, compared to more deeply diving grebes that have rod-dense retinas (Begin and Handford 1987). Grebes compress their feathers to expel trapped air and submerge more easily, and, compared to other birds, generally have many more feathers (ca. 20,000), which enable grebes to stay waterborne continuously (Fjeldsa 1975).

In Florida, may stir up sediments with the feet to bring prey into view (King 1974). In California the duration of 154 foraging dives ranged from one to 15 s (average 7.6 s (Bleich 1975)), with grebes moving only 3.7 m, on average, between dives. Escape dives to avoid disturbance lasted longer and ended farther away than foraging dives (Bleich 1975). These grebes frequently sunbathe between foraging dives; this may be an important means of heat conservation, especially for females (Ryan and Heagy 1980).

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Food Habits

Pied-billed grebes feed on what is most readily available and is not too big for them to grip with their bill. Usually they eat small fish, crustaceans (in particular crayfish), and aquatic insects and their larvae. Some examples of potential food items include crayfish, beetles, minnows, leeches, sticklebacks, and sunfish.

Pied-billed grebes obtain water by dipping thier bill into the water, and then tipping their head back.

Animal Foods: fish; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms; aquatic crustaceans

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Food Habits

Pied-billed grebes feed on what is most readily available and is not too big for them to grip with their bill. Usually they eat small fish, crustaceans (in particular crayfish), and aquatic insects and their larvae. Some examples of potential food items include crayfish, beetles, minnows, leeches, sticklebacks, and sunfish.

Pied-billed grebes obtain water by dipping thier bill into the water, and then tipping their head back.

Animal Foods: fish; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Pied-billed grebes affect populations of their prey. They are also host to some internal and external parasites.

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Predation

Known predators of pied-billed grebes include Larus glaucescens, Bubo virginianus, Fulica americana, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Falco peregrinus, Agkistrodon piscivorus, Alligator mississippiensis, Chelydra serpentina, Rattus norvegicus, Procyon lotor and Mustela.

When threatened by a predator, pied-billed grebes may swim away or dive away and hide among vegetation with only their eyes and nostrils showing. Parents may also flap their wings, pretend to be injured, and call to distract predators and draw them away from their nest (Rockwell, 1910; Allen, 1914; Gabrilson, 1914; Wetmore, 1920; Miller, 1942). They may also lunge at the predator to drive it away. Adults will sometimes carry chicks on their back away from a predator. Chicks may hold onto their parent's tail with their bill and can even hold on while swimming under water for a long distance to escape predators.

Known Predators:

  • glaucous-winged gulls (Larus_glaucescens)
  • great horned owls (Bubo_virginianus)
  • American coots (Fulica_americana)
  • bald eagles (Haliaeetus_leucocephalus)
  • peregrine falcons (Falco_peregrinus)
  • cottonmouths (Agkistrodon_piscivorus)
  • American alligators (Alligator_mississippiensis)
  • snapping turtles (Chelydra_serpentina)
  • Norway rats (Rattus_norvegicus)
  • raccoons (Procyon_lotor)
  • minks (Mustela)

  • Allen, A. 1914. At home with a Hell-Diver. Bird Lore, 16: 243-253.
  • Eifrig, C. 1915. Concealing posture of Grebes. Auk, 32(1): 95.
  • Gabrielson, I. 1914. Pied-billed Grebe notes. Wilson Bulletin, 86: 13-15.
  • Peck, G. 1919. Pied-billed Grebe caring for its young. Bird Lore, 21: 110.
  • Rockwell, R. 1910. Nesting notes on the American Eared Grebe and Pied-billed Grebe. Condor, 12: 188-193.
  • Wetmore, A. 1920. Observations on the habits of birds at Lake Buford, New Mexico. Auk, 37: 221-247.
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Ecosystem Roles

Pied-billed grebes affect populations of their prey. They are also host to some internal and external parasites.

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Predation

Known predators of pied-billed grebes include glaucous-winged gulls, great horned owls, American coots, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, cottonmouths, American alligators, snapping turtles, Norway rats, raccoons and mink.

When threatened by a predator, pied-billed grebes may swim away or dive away and resurface hidden among vegetation with only their eyes and nostrils showing. Adult grebes may also flap their wings, fake injury, and vocalize to distract and lure predators away from their nest (Rockwell, 1910; Allen, 1914; Gabrilson, 1914; Wetmore, 1920; Miller, 1942) . They may also lunge at the predator to drive it away. Adults will sometimes carry threatened chicks on their back away from a predator. Chicks may hold onto their parent's tail with their bill and can even hold on while swimming under water for a long distance to escape predators.

Known Predators:

  • Allen, A. 1914. At home with a Hell-Diver. Bird Lore, 16: 243-253.
  • Eifrig, C. 1915. Concealing posture of Grebes. Auk, 32(1): 95.
  • Gabrielson, I. 1914. Pied-billed Grebe notes. Wilson Bulletin, 86: 13-15.
  • Peck, G. 1919. Pied-billed Grebe caring for its young. Bird Lore, 21: 110.
  • Rockwell, R. 1910. Nesting notes on the American Eared Grebe and Pied-billed Grebe. Condor, 12: 188-193.
  • Wetmore, A. 1920. Observations on the habits of birds at Lake Buford, New Mexico. Auk, 37: 221-247.
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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Podilymbus podiceps preys on:
Actinopterygii
Arthropoda
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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General Ecology

Residents in pairs or family groups; more gregarious in winter (Stiles and Skutch 1989), with groups commonly including 100 or more. Generally one nesting pair on ponds up to 4 ha, but sometimes many more. One study recorded defended area of 46 m radius around nest, though nests sometimes closer than this (Johnsgard 1987). Mean distance between successful nests 55 meters (n=96; Chabreck 1963). Average home range 1.3 hectares (n=44; Glover 1953), but some as large as 35 hectares (Muller 1995).

Little is known about sources of mortality. Avian botulism, avian cholera, and gizzard worms are known to occur in grebes (Friend 1987). Predators include cottonmouths (AGKISTRODON PISCIVORUS) (Leavitt 1957), peregrine falcons (FALCO PEREGRINUS) (Buckalew 1948), and American alligators (ALLIGATOR MISSISSIPPIENSIS) (Delany 1986). Coulter (1957) reported substantial predation by snapping turtles in Maine.

Sometimes associate with other birds to enhance foraging opportunities. Have been observed in mutualistic foraging associations with snowy egrets (EGRETTA THULA) in Virginia (Leck 1971), snowy egrets and tricolored herons (HYDRANASSA TRICOLOR) in North Carolina (Mueller et al. 1972), and boat-tailed grackles (QUISCALUS MAJOR) in Mississippi (Jackson 1985).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Pied-billed grebes use vocalizations and visual displays to communicate about courtship to defend their territory. During courtship, the male and female of a pair may call together in a duet. The songs of pied-billed grebes can vary from a series of calls that sound like "wup, whut, kuk" and then increases to a "cow" followed by a high pitched "kuk" and low pitched "kow" (Deusing, 1939; Simons, 1969; Godfrey, 1986).

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets

  • Deusing, M. 1939. Nesting habits of the Pied-billed Grebe. Auk, 56(4): 367-373.
  • Simmons, K. 1969. The Pied-billed Grebe at Blagdon Lake, Somerset, in 1968. Bristol Ornithology, 2: 71-72.
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Communication and Perception

Pied-billed grebes use vocalizations and very complex and varied visual displays to communicate in courtship and in territorial matters. During courtship, the male and female of a pair may vocalize in a duet. The songs of pied-billed grebes can vary from a series of calls that sound like "wup, whut, kuk" which continually increases to a "cow" followed by a high pitched "kuk" and low pitched "kow" (Deusing, 1939; Simons, 1969; Godfrey, 1986).

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets

  • Deusing, M. 1939. Nesting habits of the Pied-billed Grebe. Auk, 56(4): 367-373.
  • Simmons, K. 1969. The Pied-billed Grebe at Blagdon Lake, Somerset, in 1968. Bristol Ornithology, 2: 71-72.
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

There is little information available on pied-billed grebes lifespans. However, grebes are thought to be long-lived birds. One wild pied-billed grebe is thought to have lived at least five years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
5 (high) years.

  • Storer, R. 1960. Evolution in the diving birds. Proc. Int. Ornithol. Congr., II: 694-707.
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Lifespan/Longevity

There is little information available on pied-billed grebes lifespans. However, grebes are thought to be long-lived birds. One wild pied-billed grebe is thought to have lived at least five years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
5 (high) years.

  • Storer, R. 1960. Evolution in the diving birds. Proc. Int. Ornithol. Congr., II: 694-707.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: Observations on one individual suggest it may live at least 5 years (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/).
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Reproduction

Single- or double-brooded and lay two to ten eggs, usually six to eight eggs per clutch (Sealy 1978, Forbes et al. 1989). Eggs are laid daily. Incubation is initiated after the fourth egg is laid, and occurs during about 90% of a given day (Forbes and Ankney 1988). Incubation is shared equally between sexes during laying and post-laying periods, although females spend more time incubating around hatching (Forbes and Ankney 1988), which occurs at about 23 days (Palmer 1962). Begin incubation before completing the clutch (Cramp et al. 1977) leading to considerable hatching asynchrony among the brood. Two to four eggs generally hatch on the first day of hatching, and the remaining eggs hatch daily over a period of three to seven days (Forbes and Ankney 1987, 1988). A detailed description of the hatching muscle and its development is given by Fisher (1961). The first eggs laid are about 8% lighter than subsequent eggs within clutches (Forbes and Ankney 1988), but variation in egg weight probably has little effect on the vigor of individual hatchlings (Arnold 1989).

Adults usually divide brood. Age at first flight has been estimated at 35 days (Kirby 1976, Forbes and Ankney 1987). Age at first breeding may be as early as 13 months (MacVean 1990). Solitary nesters and defend relatively small territories of as little as less than two ha (Glover 1953) that provide food, cover, and nest sites. Territorial birds also sometimes forage outside their defended areas. Highly territorial and usually only one pair nests at a wetland (Faaborg 1976, Sealy 1978). Wetlands more than five ha, however, may support more than one pair (Palmer 1962, Faaborg 1976), and large marshes with suitable habitat support multiple pairs (Chabreck 1963).

NESTING PERIOD: Initiation of nesting activity varies throughout the range, occurring as early as April and as late as June, and peaking in May in most areas. Examples of nesting periods are 3 May to 10 September for 107 nests in Louisiana (Chabreck 1963), 2 May to 8 August for 138 nests in Iowa (Glover 1953), and 3 May to 22 August in Ontario (Johnsgard 1987). Although some pairing may occur on wintering areas (Palmer 1962), courtship begins soon after ice-out following arrival at nesting areas. Courtship behavior is mutual and less formalized than other species of grebes (Palmer 1962).

NESTS AND EGGS: Both sexes build nests and may add plant material and mud as the season progresses and as nests slowly sink (Fjeldsa 1975). Air-pockets in green plants and trapped gases generated by the fermenting and rotting vegetation give the nest buoyancy. The floating, rotting nest generates substantial quantities of heat, and many aspects of reproduction may be related to their use of a warm, humid nest (Davis et al. 1985). Nests have a hollow to hold the eggs, and may extend 90 cm below the surface but only eight cm above (Glover 1953). The eggs have a threefold increase in pore density, compared to other birds' eggs, which enables the eggs to lose sufficient water within the humid confines of the nest prior to hatching (Davis et al. 1985). When leaving the nest, adults cover their eggs with plant material, and the rotting nest, where temperatures may remain 11-13 degrees Celsius higher than the surrounding water, can provide enough heat to incubate the eggs in the adults' absence (Davis et al. 1985). Time constraints imposed by incubation may thereby be lessened, providing adults with more time for foraging and territory defense.

NESTING SUCCESS: High nest success has been reported in many areas: 70% of 138 nests in Iowa (Glover 1953), 77% of 150 nests in Wisconsin (Otto 1983), 90% of 107 nests in Louisiana (Chabreck 1963), and 90% of 115 nests in Nova Scotia (Forbes et al. 1989) hatched one egg or less. Wind and high waves, fluctuating water levels, and predation can be significant sources of nest loss. Of 42 nests in Manitoba, 69% failed, mostly due to flooding from high waves (Sealy 1978). Half of total nest loss in Iowa was due to wave action or water level fluctuation and 25% to raccoon (PROCYON LOTOR) predation (Glover 1953). In Nova Scotia, nest loss resulted from predation, including crows (CORVUS BRACHYRHYNCHOS) and poor weather (Forbes et al. 1989). In comparison to clutch sizes, observations of relatively small broods, e.g., averaging 4.4 (Chabreck 1963) and 2.9 (Yocum et al. 1958), suggest that substantial chick mortality occurs. Snapping turtles (CHELYDRA SERPENTINA) may represent important predators of young (Coulter 1957). Females are indeterminate layers (Fugle and Rothstein 1977), and frequently replace lost clutches, usually renesting within 50 m of destroyed nests (Glover 1953, Forbes et al. 1989).

CHICK REARING: Adults usually divide broods and provision chicks with a variety of small-sized prey, including dragonfly naiads, dytiscid beetle larvae, leeches, and salamanders (Forbes and Ankney 1987). Chicks usually remain near parents, and frequently ride on the backs of adults, even during foraging dives (Forbush 1925). Initial size disparities of chicks, due to asynchronous hatching, influence food allocation within broods. Aggression among chicks is high when rates of food-delivery by adults are low, and larger chicks win more disputes over food than smaller chicks (Forbes and Ankney 1987). The bare loral area of chicks changes from dull-colored to bright crimson in hungry chicks, however, and adults may use this indicator of nutritional status to allocate food among members of a brood (Forbes and Ankney 1987). Two unusual forms of chick provisioning occur: for unknown reasons, chicks are occasionally fed by adults other than pair members (Forbes 1987), and young grebes from first broods may feed young from second broods (Cramp et al. 1977).

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Pied-billed grebes have one mate each year, and a pair of grebes may mate together for several years. Pied-billed grebes use displays of their swimming ability and other features to attract a mate. Before mating, pairs may swim together, or race and dive underwater.

Mating System: monogamous

Pied-billed grebes first breed when they are one or two years old. Grebes breeding in the north raise one brood each summer. Some pied-billed grebes breeding in the south may raise two broods in a summer. The grebes build bowl-shaped nests that float, but are anchored to aquatic plants. They are usually built in shallow water. The male and female build the nest from fresh and decomposing plants that they gather from the lake bottom.

The female lays 3 to 10 (usually 5 to 7) eggs, which are white or sometimes turquoise. Within two days of laying, the eggs become stained by the nest and turn brown. The eggs are incubated for 23 to 27 days, and hatch at different times. The chicks are able to leave the nest within an hour of hatching, usually by climbing onto a parent's back. They become independent from their parents within 25 to 62 days.

Pied-bill grebes begin breeding around April or May and continue through about October.

Breeding interval: Pied-billed grebes breed once per year. Pairs in the southern part of the range may raise two broods during a single breeding season.

Breeding season: Pied-bill grebes begin breeding around April or May and continue through about October.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 10.

Range time to hatching: 23 to 27 days.

Range time to independence: 25 to 62 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization

Both male and female pied-billed grebes incubate the eggs. The chicks are precocial and can swim and dive immediately after hatching. However, parents continue to protect the chicks for several weeks, and often carry them on their backs. The parents feed the chicks from the time they hatch until they become independent, up to 10 weeks after hatching.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Ackerman, R., M. Platter-Reiger. 1979. Water loss by Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) eggs. American Zoology, 19: 921.
  • Glover, F. 1953. Nesting ecology of the Pied-billed Grebe in Northwestern Iowa. Wilson Bulletin, 65(1): 32-39.
  • MacVean, S. 1988. Artificial incubation, captive-rearing and maintenance of Pied-billed Grebes in Guatamala. M.S. thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
  • McAllister, N. 1963. Ontogeny of behavior in five species of grebes. PhD. thesis, University of Bristish Columbia, Vancouver.
  • Muller, M. 1995. Pied-billed Grebes nesting on Green Lake, Seattle Washington. Washington Birds, 4: 35-39.
  • Palmer, R. 1962. Handbook of North American birds. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Muller, M., R. Storer. 1999. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 410. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc..
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Like other grebes, P. podiceps is monogamous on a seasonal or multi-seasonal basis. However, unlike other grebes, it has no intricate courtship display. Courtship has five different stages: Advertising, the Pirouette Ceremony, Ripple Dive, Circle Display, and Triumph Ceremony.

Advertising marks the beginning of courtship, swimming around with sleek feathers and elongated neck allow the single bird to let birds of opposite sex take notice of his or her availability. In the pirouette ceremony, each bird approaches the other and then takes an upright posture and may give a greeting call followed by a series of head turning jerks. The Ripple Dance involves dives and races underwater to show the other bird his or her swimming prowess. The Circle Display is self explanatory and can be initiated by either sex; during the Circle Display the pair are several meters apart on the water surface. The Triumph Ceremony, which takes place after mates have been established, consists of each mate circling around the other in a stooped position.

Mating System: monogamous

Pied-billed grebes first breed when they are one or two years old. Grebes breeding in the north raise one brood each summer. Some pairs breeding in the south may raise two broods in a summer. Pied-billed grebe nests float and are anchored to marsh vegetation in shallow waters. Both sexes gather soft, flexible, decomposed or fresh plants from the lake bottom to construct the nest. The nest itself resembles a bowl (Muller and Storer, 1999).

The eggs are oval in shape and are bluish white to greenish white and occasionally turquoise. Within two days, the eggs become white and then take on the nest stains and turn brown (Muller, 1995). The typical clutch size is between two and ten (Glover, 1953) with incubation between 23 and 27 days. The chicks are able to leave the nest within an hour of hatching, usually by climbing onto a parent's back. They become independent from their parents within 25 to 62 days.

The breeding season for pied-billed grebes begins in approximately April or May and continues through about October.

Breeding interval: Pied-billed grebes breed once per year. Pairs in the southern part of the range may raise two broods during a single breeding season.

Breeding season: Pied-bill grebes begin breeding around April or May and continue through about October.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 10.

Range time to hatching: 23 to 27 days.

Range time to independence: 25 to 62 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization

Both male and female pied-billed grebes incubate the eggs. The chicks are precocial and can swim and dive immediately after hatching. However, parents continue to protect the chicks for several weeks, and often carry them on their backs. The parents feed the chicks from the time they hatch until they become independent, up to 10 weeks after hatching.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Ackerman, R., M. Platter-Reiger. 1979. Water loss by Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) eggs. American Zoology, 19: 921.
  • Glover, F. 1953. Nesting ecology of the Pied-billed Grebe in Northwestern Iowa. Wilson Bulletin, 65(1): 32-39.
  • MacVean, S. 1988. Artificial incubation, captive-rearing and maintenance of Pied-billed Grebes in Guatamala. M.S. thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
  • McAllister, N. 1963. Ontogeny of behavior in five species of grebes. PhD. thesis, University of Bristish Columbia, Vancouver.
  • Muller, M. 1995. Pied-billed Grebes nesting on Green Lake, Seattle Washington. Washington Birds, 4: 35-39.
  • Palmer, R. 1962. Handbook of North American birds. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Muller, M., R. Storer. 1999. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 410. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc..
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Podilymbus podiceps

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 6 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNTGGCNCTGCCCTAAGCTTACTCATCCGCGCAGAACTAGGACAACCAGGAACCCTTTTAGGAGACGACCAAATCTACAACGTAATCGTTACTGCCCACGCCTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTTATACCAATCATAATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGATTAGTCCCCCTAATAATCGGGGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCTCGCATGAACAACATGAGCTTCTGACTCCTCCCCCCATCTTTCCTACTCCTCCTGGCCTCATCTACAGTAGAAGCCGGAGCAGGCACCGGATGAACCGTATATCCCCCACTAGCTGGTAACCTAGCCCATGCTGGCGCCTCAGTAGACCTAGCTATCTTCTCACTCCACCTGGCAGGTGTATCCTCCATCCTCGGGGCAATCAACTTCATTACAACTGCCATCAACATAAAACCACCAGCTCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTAATTACCGCCGTCCTGCTACTACTTTCACTCCCAGTCCTTGCCGCCGGCNTTACCATACTACTAACAGACCGAAACTTAAACACCACATTCTTCGACCCTGCCGGTGGCGGAGACCCAGTCCTATATCAACATCTCTTCTGATTCTTCGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTACATCTTAATCCTC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Podilymbus podiceps

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B,N5N : N5B: Secure - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Degradation and destruction of their wetland habitat threaten populations of pied-billed grebes. They are also affected by poisoning from pesticides and other contaminants, such as DDE and PCB. Other sources of mortality include entanglement in fishing lines, accidental shooting when they are mistaken for ducks, and collision with man-made objects such as television towers.

Pied-billed grebes are protected by the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but are not listed on the US Federal List, or by CITES or the IUCN.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Degradation and destruction of their wetland habitat threaten populations of pied-billed grebes. They are also affected by poisoning from pesticides and other contaminants, such as DDE and PCB. Other sources of mortality include entanglement in fishing lines, accidental shooting when they are mistaken for ducks, and collision with man-made objects such as television towers.

Pied-billed grebes are protected by the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but are not listed on the US Federal List, or by CITES or the IUCN.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Comments: Has declined locally due to degradation, disturbance, and loss of wetlands. The greatest threat to populations in the northeast is alteration and loss of wetland habitat through draining, dredging, filling, pollution, acid rain, agricultural practices, and siltation (Gibbs and Melvin 1992). Palustrine emergent wetlands, including inland freshwater and brackish marshlands frequented by grebes, are among the most threatened wildlife habitats in the U.S. Over 4.75 million acres (1.92 million ha) of such wetlands were destroyed in the U.S. between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s, and losses continue at > 160,000 ac/year (64,777 ha) (Tiner 1984). Pollution and environmental contaminants may degrade wetland ecosystems and impair reproductive capacity in industrialized portions of the range. Carbamate pesticides have had lethal effects in New York (Stone 1979). Although acidification of wetland nesting habitats could potentially reduce food supplies, grebes usually occupy wetlands of circumneutral pH with dense growths of emergent vegetation (Gibbs et al., in press; Gibbs and Melvin 1990) that may provide effective chemical buffering against acidification. In agricultural areas, siltation resulting from erosion of farmlands and run-off containing insecticides may degrade nesting habitats and reduce availability of invertebrate foods. Highly susceptible to oil toxicosis, although this does not pose a major threat to overwintering grebes because they occur in small groups and favor sites at inland, fresh waters generally well-protected from large, ocean-borne oil spills (Clapp et al. 1982). One died after choking on a fish (Behrstock 1981). These birds sometimes mistake wet roads for water bodies from which they are unable to take off. Human exploitation historically has had an important impact on numbers. Warren (1890) reported that large numbers were shot and sold to milliners and furriers who fashioned ear-muffs and hat ornaments from the silver-white breast and abdomen feathers. The grebe has long been persecuted because of the challenge it poses as a target for hunters (Bent 1919, Forbush 1925, Palmer 1949). Its predilection for using managed impoundments during migration may predispose it to accidental or malicious shootings by duck hunters. Human disturbance can greatly disrupt patterns of nest attendance and incubation (Forbes and Ankney 1988, Davis et al. 1985).

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Management

Restoration Potential: Will colonize artificial wetlands created by surface-mining (Perkins and Lawrence 1985) and abandoned industrial settling ponds (Rickard et al. 1981). Readily uses artificial wetlands at managed impoundments such as at state and federal waterfowl refuges (Andrle and Carroll 1988; Gibbs et al., in press). Artificial impoundments are thought to have reversed population declines in some areas and led to local population increases in others (Bull 1974). Their ability to renest following nest loss and raise two broods per year, its relatively large clutch size (up to seven eggs), and its tolerance of a wide range of habitat conditions, suggest that, given a stable habitat base, management potential for populations is high (Gibbs and Melvin 1992).

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Minimum wetland area is an important consideration in preserve design. Grebes typically occur on wetlands above a minimum threshold size, although this "minimum area" varies regionally. Minimum area requirements appear to be as large as five ha in the Midwest and Northeast (Brown and Dinsmore 1986; Gibbs et al., in press; Gibbs and Melvin 1990), although sites in the Midwest as small as 0.5 ha are used occasionally (Faaborg 1976). If provided with suitable habitat, large breeding populations can be supported on a single, managed wetland, e.g., up to 107 pairs have nested on an 81-ha impoundment in Louisiana (Chabreck 1963).

Moderately deep (0.25-2 m), stable waters represent an important feature of habitats for nesting. Key physical features of breeding areas also include large areas of aquatic-bed vegetation and open water, which can serve as deepwater feeding sites, interspersed with dense growth of robust emergents, with some patches over 100 m from shorelines that can serve as predator-free nest sites. Protection from human disturbance is important, e.g., from boats whose wakes can flood nests and recreationists whose presence can disturb incubating birds. Preserves also should be protected from upland run-off that may transport silt and contaminants and thereby lower wetland productivity and reduce food supplies (Gibbs and Melvin 1992).

In Maine, occurred only in wetlands > five ha in size, and were more common on wetlands impounded by beavers (CASTOR CANADENSIS) or humans than in wetlands of glacial origin (Gibbs et al. in press, Gibbs and Melvin 1990). Wetlands used by grebes had, on average, more aquatic-bed (submerged and floating vegetation) and emergent vegetation than did unused wetlands. In Iowa, individuals were observed at only 44 seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands among > 500 ponds and lakes surveyed (Faaborg 1976). Used wetlands of intermediate size (0.6-7.0 ha), but seemed to avoid either smaller or larger wetlands (Faaborg 1976). Another Iowa study suggested that the occurrence was dependent on wetland area because grebes occurred regularly only at wetlands > five ha (Brown and Dinsmore 1986). Wetlands as small as 0.3 ha, however, were used in Manitoba (Nudds 1982). In eastern Washington, 80% of broods were found at potholes of only 0.4-2.0 ha (Yocum et al. 1958).

Management Requirements: In the northeastern U.S., preservation of large, deepwater fresh and brackish marshes is the most important management need; managed waterfowl impoundments often provide prime nesting and migration habitat, and future efforts to protect or create wetlands significant to waterfowl could benefit the grebe (Gibbs and Melvin 1992). Preservation of relatively large (> 10 ha) wetlands with an interspersion of dense, robust emergents, submergent vegetation, and open water, is the most urgent management need in the Northeast. Wetlands used for breeding also need to be protected from chemical contamination, siltation, eutrophication, and other forms of pollution that harm grebes or their food supplies. Vegetative features of preferred habitats represent a particular stage of wetland succession ("hemi-marsh" stage of Weller and Spatcher 1965). Wetland managers, therefore, need to periodically reverse vegetative succession and open up extensive stands of emergent vegetation while maintaining suitable habitats nearby to serve as alternate nesting areas during wetland manipulations. In the northeastern states, wetlands characterized as deep, fresh marshes are perhaps best suited for nesting. For states with substantially reduced populations (e.g., Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey), creation of nesting habitats may be necessary to restore viable populations. Managed impoundments could also bolster nesting populations in areas where marshlands were scarce originally (e.g., central Pennsylvania, central and western Virginia, and West Virginia).

Because grebes occur in many wetlands managed for waterfowl by state and federal agencies, there is ample opportunity for making minor alterations to existing management schemes to improve nesting habitat. For example, portions of dense stands of cattail and bulrush, which are often removed with cutting, burning, or flooding treatments to improve waterfowl habitat, should be retained as nesting sites. Maintaining stable water levels during the nesting season prevents flooding of nests (a major source of reproductive failure) and predator access. Heavily dependent on aquatic-bed vegetation (floating-leaved and submergent) and management activities that promote establishment and growth of such vegetation will benefit grebes (Gibbs and Melvin 1992). Manipulation of water levels (Fredrickson and Taylor 1982) provides a cost-effective method for establishing dense stands of emergent vegetation while retaining open-water areas preferred by grebes.

Given the dependence of nesting birds on Odonates and small fish (Wetmore 1924), complete drying during wetland drawdowns should be avoided to prevent die-offs of dragonflies, many of which overwinter in late instars rather than in drought-resistant eggs (Orians 1980), and fish. The presence of carp may significantly lower availability of invertebrate foods for grebes and other waterbirds. Liming and fertilizing dikes and adjacent fields can increase the productivity and raise the pH of nutrient-poor, acidic wetlands in the northeastern region. Floating nests are easily washed over and capsized by wave action, and thus large, motorized boats should be excluded from marshes with nesting grebes. Recreation activity should be restricted during the nesting season to avoid disturbance to incubating grebes (Gibbs and Melvin 1992).

Management Research Needs: From Gibbs and Melvin (1992): 1) Conduct surveys to better determine relative abundance and distribution in the Northeast. 2) Develop standardized survey techniques and implement programs to monitor trends in populations and habitat availability. 3) Conduct detailed studies of the floristic and structural composition of wetland vegetation, water levels and water quality, and minimum wetland area associated with the occurrence of grebes during nesting and migration. 4) Determine the effects of diseases, parasites, contaminants and weather. 5) Investigate effects of altering management strategies at wetland impoundments managed primarily for waterfowl in order to benefit grebes. 6) Monitor contaminant levels in adults and eggs in agricultural and industrialized regions. 7) Determine major migration stop-over sites and study over-wintering habitats and biology. 8) Evaluate the effects of invasion of phragmites (PHRAGMITES AUSTRALIS) and purple loosestrife (LYTHRUM SALICARIA).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Pied-billed grebes eat small fish which may impact populations of economically important fish.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pied-billed grebes are a focus of ecotourism and much research.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Pied-billed grebes eat small fish which may impact populations of economically important fish.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pied-billed grebes are a focus of ecotourism and much research.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: Secretive wetland birds that are widely distributed across the Northeast. Little is known about their population size and stability because it is difficult to detect them on bird surveys currently conducted in the Northeast. Specialized surveys using point-counts and tape-recorded vocalizations in wetlands are necessary to determine the presence of breeding birds. Prefer moderately deep wetlands with large areas of aquatic-bed vegetation and open water for feeding, and dense areas of emergents for nesting. Readily use artificial wetlands at managed impoundments. The large clutch size coupled with their ability to raise two broods per year suggest that the management potential for populations is high. Northern populations are migratory and dense wintering populations occur at inland sites in the southern U.S.

Species Impact: May be aggressive toward other birds with similar diet and habitat requirements, and the presence of grebes is sometimes considered by wetland managers to be detrimental to waterfowl production (Kilham 1954, Kirby 1976).

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Pied-billed grebe

The pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) is a species of the grebe family of water birds. Since the Atitlán grebe (Podilymbus gigas) has become extinct, it is the sole extant member of the genus Podilymbus. The pied-billed grebe is primarily found in ponds throughout the Americas.[2] Other names of this grebe include American dabchick, dabchick, Carolina grebe, devil-diver, dive-dapper, dipper, hell-diver, pied-billed dabchick, thick-billed grebe, and water witch.[3][4]

Taxonomy and name[edit]

The pied-billed grebe was described by Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae in 1758 as Colymbus podiceps.[5] The binomial name is derived from Latin Podilymbus, a contraction of podicipes ("feet at the buttocks", from podici-, "rump-" + pes, "foot")—the origin of the name of the grebe order—and Ancient Greek kolymbos, "diver", and podiceps, "rump-headed", from podici- + New Latin ceps.[6]

Outside its own genus, the closest relatives of the pied-billed grebe are the small grebes of the genus Tachybaptus.[7]

Description[edit]

Pied-billed grebes are small, stocky, and short-necked. They are 31–38 cm (12–15 in) in length, with a wingspan of 45–62 cm (18–24 in) and weigh 253–568 g (8.9–20.0 oz).[8] They are mainly brown, with a darker crown and back.[9] Their brown color serves as camouflage in the marshes they live in.[10] They do not have white under their wings when flying, like other grebes.[11] Their undertail is white[9] and they have a short, blunt chicken-like bill that is a light grey color,[2][9] which in summer is encircled by a broad black band (hence the name). In the summer, its throat is black.[2] There is no sexual dimorphism.[11] Juveniles have black and white stripes and look more like winter adults.[2] This grebe does not have webbed feet. Its toes have lobes that come out of the side of each toe. These lobes allow for easy paddling.[2] When flying, the feet appear behind the body due to the feet's placement in the far back of the body.[9]

It may be confused with the least grebe, although that species is smaller and has a thinner bill.

Vocalization[edit]

Its call is unique, loud and sounds like a "whooping kuk-kuk-cow-cow-cow-cowp-cowp."[12] Its call is similar to the yellow-billed cuckoo.[10]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

They are most commonly found throughout North America, Central America and South America year round. During the summer breeding season, they are most prevalent in central, northern and northeastern Canada.[2] If they live in an area where the water freezes in the winter they will migrate. Migrating birds generally meet with year round birds in September and October.[13] They migrate at night.[2] Most migratory birds leave in March or April.[13] They make occasional appearances in Europe and Hawaii.[2] In the United Kingdom, pied-billed grebe visits have numbered 37 sightings as of 2007, appearing generally in October to January.[14] One bird in England bred with a little grebe, producing hybrid young.[15] It is the only grebe on record to have visited the Galapagos Islands.[16]

Pied-billed grebes are found in freshwater wetlands with emergent vegetation, such as cattails.[12] They are occasionally found in salt water. When breeding they are found in emergent vegetation near open water, and in the winter they are primarily found in open water due to the lack of nests to maintain. They may live near rivers, but prefer still water. They may be found in higher elevations when migrating.[13] They will breed in restored and man-made wetlands.[13]

Pied-billed grebes live approximately 10–12 years.[11]

Behaviour[edit]

Young chick swimming on Lake Washington

Pied-billed grebes rarely fly. They make a slow dive frequently, especially when in danger, diving to about 20 ft (6.1 m) or less.[2][11] They dive for about 30 seconds and may move to a more secluded area of the water, allowing only the head to be visible to watch the danger dissipate.[11] This frequency in diving has earned them the description of being reclusive or shy in nature.[12] It has also earned them nicknames like "hell-diver."[3] They rarely spend time in flocks.[13] Their courtship include calling and sometimes duets.[13] Males will show territorial behaviour if another male is at the edge of his territory. They face each other and then turn their heads and bills up. Then they turn away and start calling. Then they turn back around to look at one another.[11]

Breeding[edit]

The pied-billed grebe breeds in south-central Canada, throughout the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, and temperate South America.[8] These grebes may lay up to two sets of eggs a year.[11] Their nests sit on top of the water, their eggs sitting in vegetation that resides in the water.[12] Grebes lay between three and ten bluish white smooth elliptical eggs with the female starting the incubation process.[2][11] They are incubated for around 23 days by both parents, with the female taking over incubation duties towards the end of that time period.[11][13] They will cover the nest with nesting material if they have to leave it for an extended period of time.[13]

Young grebes may leave the nest within one day of hatching. They are downy at birth. Yellow skin is seen between the lore and top of the head.[11] They do not swim well and stay out of the water. They sleep on their parents' backs. Within four weeks they start swimming.[2] When alerted they will climb on the back of a parent grebe and eventually mature to dive under the water like their parents.[2][12] Both parents share the role of raising the young – both feeding and carrying them on their backs.[13] Sometimes the parents will dive underwater to get food with the chicks on their backs.[11]

Diet[edit]

Adult with two juveniles feeding on a crawfish

Pied-billed grebes feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates, and also on small fish and amphibians (frogs, tadpoles). They dive to obtain food.[2] Their bills allow them to crush crustaceans, like crawfish.[2][13] They may also eat plants.[4] They have been shown to eat their own feathers, like other grebes, to aid in digestion (prevent injury from small bones).[17] They will also feed their feathers to their young.[13]

Threats[edit]

They are extremely sensitive to disturbances, especially by humans. While breeding, if scared, adults may abandon their nests without protecting the eggs. The waves from boats can destroy the nests and their sounds easily frighten the birds.[10]

In culture[edit]

Pied-billed grebe feathers are thick and soft. Their feathers were formerly used as decorations on hats and earmuffs and they were hunted in the eastern United States, in the 19th-century.[10][11]

Status[edit]

The grebes are declining in New England. The reasons are unknown.[13] The states of Connecticut and New Hampshire have declared the pied-billed grebe as endangered. In New Jersey[10] and Massachusetts, they have been declared threatened. In Vermont they are of "special concern." In Rhode Island they are locally extinct.[11]

Habitat loss is the grebe's biggest threat. The draining, filling, and general destruction of wetlands causes a loss in their breeding habitats.[10] However, they are still common in the majority of their distribution areas.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Podilymbus podiceps". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Pied-billed Grebe". Bird Guide. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps". NatureWorks. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Pied-billed grebe". Birds. Illinois Natural History Survey. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Linnaeus, Carolus (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata (in Latin). Stockholm: Laurentius Salvius. p. 136. 
  6. ^ Cabard P. and Chauvet B. (2003). Etymologie des noms d'oiseaux Belin Eveil éditeur, France ISBN 2-7011-3783-7
  7. ^ Christidis, Les; Walter E. Boles (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO. p. 67. ISBN 0643065113. 
  8. ^ a b Muller, M. J., and R. W. Storer. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). In The Birds of North America, No. 410 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc., 1999.
  9. ^ a b c d "Pied-billed grebe Podilymbus podiceps". USGS. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps". State of New Jersey. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Pied-billed Grebe". Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. State of Connecticut. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Fisher, Chris C. & Joseph Morlan (1996). Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Auburn: Lone Pine Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-55105-080-5. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Pied-billed Grebe". Grebes. Seattle Audubon Society. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  14. ^ "Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps". Grebes. British Trust for Ornithology. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  15. ^ Newton, Ian (2008). The Migration Ecology of Birds. London, UK: Academic Press. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-12-517367-4. 
  16. ^ Andy Swash; Rob Still (2005). Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands: An Identification Guide, 2nd Edition. Yale University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-300-11532-1. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  17. ^ Ehrlich, Paul; David Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye (1988). The Birder's Handbook. New York: Simon and Schuster.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: May constitute a superspecies with P. GIGAS (AOU 1998).

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