Birds Vol 1 #4 – The Piedbill Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe from Col F. M. Woodruff.for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography

Pied-billed Grebe from Col F. M. Woodruff.for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. April, 1897 No. 4



Boys and Girls:

This is the first time I’ve been on land for several weeks. I am sure you can’t think of any other kind of bird who can say that.

Sometimes I don’t go on land for months, but stay in the water all of the time—eat and sleep there, floating around.

My little chick wanted me to go on land so we could have our pictures taken.

If he were not sitting so close to me you could see better what paddles I have for feet.

I build my nest of weeds, grass, sticks, and anything I can find floating around. I most always fasten it to some reeds or tall grass that grow up out of the water.

In this I lay the eggs and just as soon as the chicks come out of the shell they can swim. Of course they can’t swim as well as I and they soon get tired. Do you know how I rest them?

Well, it’s very funny, but I just help them up on my back and there they rest while I swim around and get them food. When they get rested they slide off into the water.

Are you wondering if I can fly? Well, I can fly a little but not very well. I can get along very fast swimming, and as I do not go on land often, why should I care to fly.

Should any one try to harm me I can dive, and swim under water out of reach.

Well, chick, let us go back to our home in the water.

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) nest ©USFWS

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) nest ©USFWS



EMBERS of the family of Grebes are to be found in the temperate zones of both hemispheres, beyond which they do not extend very far either to the north or south. They are usually found on ponds or large sheets of stagnant water, sometimes on deep, slow-moving streams; but always where sedges and rushes are abundant. Probably there are no birds better entitled to the name of water fowl than the Grebes—at least, observers state that they know of no others that do not on some occasions appear on dry land. It is only under the most urgent circumstances, as, for instance, when wounded, that they approach the shore, and even then they keep so close to the brink that on the slightest alarm they can at once plunge into the water. Whatever they do must be done in the water; they cannot even rise upon the wing without a preliminary rush over the surface of the lake. From dry land they cannot begin their flight. Their whole life is spent in swimming and diving. They even repose floating upon the water, and when thus asleep float as buoyantly as if they were made of cork, the legs raised to the edges of the wings, and the head comfortably buried among the feathers between the back and shoulder. Should a storm arise, they at once turn to face the blast, and are usually able, with their paddle-like feet, to maintain themselves in the same place. They dive with great facility, and make their way more swiftly when under water than when swimming at the top. When flying the long neck is stretched out straight forwards and the feet backwards. In the absence of any tail, they steer their course by means of their feet. When alarmed they instantly dive.

Their food consists of small fishes, insects, frogs, and tadpoles. Grebes are peculiar in their manner of breeding. They live in pairs, and are very affectionate, keeping in each other’s company during their migrations, and always returning together to the same pond. The nest is a floating one, a mass of wet weeds, in which the eggs are not only kept damp, but in the water. The weeds used in building the nests are procured by diving, and put together so as to resemble a floating heap of rubbish, and fastened to some old upright reeds. The eggs are from three to six, at first greenish white in color, but soon become dirty, and are then of a yellowish red or olive-brown tint, sometimes marbled.

The male and female both sit upon the nest, and the young are hatched in three weeks. From the first moment they are able to swim, and in a few days to dive. Having once quitted the nest they seldom return to it, a comfortable resting and sleeping place being afforded them on the backs of their parents. “It is a treat to watch the little family as now one, now another of the young brood, tired with the exertion of swimming or of struggling against the rippling water, mount as to a resting place on their mother’s back; to see how gently, when they have recovered their strength, she returns them to the water; to hear the anxious, plaintive notes of the little warblers when they have ventured too far from the nest; to see their food laid before them by the old birds; or to witness the tenderness with which they are taught to dive.”

Pied-Billed Grebe at Lake Hollingsworth, Lakeland, FL by Dan

Pied-Billed Grebe at Lake Hollingsworth, Lakeland Young by Dan

Lee’s Addition:

So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21 NKJV)

Here is another of the Lord’s neat little birds that He has created and designed to live most of the time in water. I always enjoy watching the Grebes. They dive down and then pop up who-knows-where. They stay down awhile and travel underwater, as the article mentioned. Pied-billed Grebes are here in this area, central Flordia, year round.

The Pied-billed Grebe is small, stocky, and short-necked. It is 31–38 centimeters (12–15 in) in length, it has a wingspan of 45–62 cm (18–24 in) and weighs 253–568 grams (8.9–20.0 oz). It is usually brown or gray in color. It has a short, blunt chicken-like bill, which in summer is encircled by a broad black band (hence the name). It is the only grebe that does not show a white wing patch in flight. The sexes are monomorphic (meaning no sexual dimorphism). (Wikipedia)

They belong to the Grebes – Podicipedidae Family. It has 22 members. The ones in North America are:

Clark’s Grebe
Eared Grebe (Black-Necked) by Dave’s Birding Pix
Horned Grebe
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 April 1897 No 4 – Cover


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Bohemian Wax-Wing

Previous Article – The California Woodpecker

Wordless Birds


Pied-billed Grebe – What Bird

Pied-billed Grebe – All About Birds

Pied-billed Grebe – Wikipedia

Ad for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Ad for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897


One thought on “Birds Vol 1 #4 – The Piedbill Grebe

  1. Very interesting article, Lee. I love the way Birds Illustrated tells part of the story from the bird’s point of view. And what a great picture! I also love the old ads. I’m so glad you included the picture of that. I enlarged it so I could read it all.


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