Seabirds, Pacific Northwest
This tiny waterbird has a big voice, if you hear it, you will never forget it. Pied Billed Grebes love to talk and their vocalizations are a common part of the sounds of the marsh.
The Pied Billed Grebe is smaller than a teal. Its body is buff-colored and its bill has a dark band on it. Its rump is white. Pied Billed Grebes breed from British Columbia to southern Mackenzie in the west, and from Nova Scotia southward in the east. They spend winters along the coast of southern BC.
Preferred habitats include marshes, ponds, and small lakes with deep shore growth. On the Island, they breed on the South Island up to the Campbell River area on the east side and as far as Gold River on the west side. Pied Billed Grebe nests are normally floating structures placed in marsh vegetation or anchored to logs, dead trees, and isolated marshy islets.
Both adults build the nest, preferred nesting sites are in shallow water with plenty of shore growth. Floating, or built up from the bottom, the nest is a dense mat of plant material anchored to standing vegetation. They will approach the nest from underwater. The female will lay up to seven eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them for about 23 days. When the nest is unattended for a prolonged period of time, the adults cover the nest with nesting material to protect it. Both parents feed the young and may carry them around on their backs, even while swimming underwater. Soon after hatching, the young can swim on their own.
Pied Billed Grebes feed on insects and aquatic insect larvae along with crayfish. The birds’ thick bills can easily crush large crustaceans, but Pied-billed Grebes are also opportunistic feeders, preying on a wide variety of aquatic creatures including fish.