Breeding Birds of 2017: Pied-billed Grebes

Pied-billed Grebes successfully reared their young on the Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary lagoon last summer. All through this spring we wondered, could they do it again?

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By early April there were two Pied-billed Grebes hanging out together on the sanctuary lagoon. (April 8, 2017)

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But after mid April we only saw one grebe, always alone. We sometimes heard it sing, but we were concerned that we never saw a second grebe. (April 17, 2017)

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Then in mid May we saw an encouraging sign. The lone Pied-billed Grebe approached a small flock of Hooded Mergansers…..

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…and then attacked, chasing them off! Male Pied-billed Grebes defend their territories against both other grebes and ducks of all kinds. So maybe this grebe was on territory, and its mate was on a nest hidden somewhere in the reeds and cattails. (May 16, 2017)

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But then, for more a month, we saw only one grebe on the lagoon. It sang most days we visited the park, but we wondered what was happening with its mate. (May 29, 2017)

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Finally, on June 18, we saw the mother grebe with eight half-grown young!  She must have kept her brood hidden in the reeds for several weeks, at least when we were in the park. (June 18. 2017)

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The mother grebe was still a bit shy with her young. As soon as she saw us, she had them line up behind her and follow her back into the reeds. We did not see them again for the rest of the day. (June 18, 2017).

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For the next few weeks we saw the grebe family during each of our visits to the park. Usually they stayed far out on the lagoon, with the mom staying close to the young grebes. (June 26, 2017)

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The mother grebe caught small catfish to feed her young ones….

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,,,passing the fish to the young grebes and then swimming nearby to make sure everything went well.

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This time, the catfish proved a challenge for the young grebe. The fish was dropped at least three times, but each time the mother re-caught the catfish and passed it back to the young grebe….

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…until finally the fish was successfully swallowed! (July 11, 2017)

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By the second week in July, some of the young grebes were already catching and swallowing small catfish on their own. So it looks like the parent grebes have had another successful year raising young on the sanctuary lagoon! (July 11, 2017)

You can learn more about Pied-billed Grebes here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pied-billed_Grebe/lifehistory

Follow this link to hear the song of the Pied-billed Grebe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVPAXlH7vHw

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One thought on “Breeding Birds of 2017: Pied-billed Grebes

  1. Amazing captures and cool blog here! I initially noticed you “grebe and fish” shots. It looks like the mother was handing a challenge over to her young!

    Wow that first catfish (don’t those fish have sharp spines and poison barbs?) caught looks pretty big for the chick! So the bird was really able to win the struggle and gulp that entire thing okay??

    Does the fish put up a good fight, if eaten, does the unlucky prey get swallowed wriggling all the way as well?!

    Like

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