The Travels of Tug 44

Pied-Billed Grebe

At the end of March 2019 during the annual spring migration north, we spotted this tiny little duckie under some brush at the water's edge on the Hudson River. She was really tiny, barely larger than a Robin. And she seemed totally unafraid of us and our car, only about 20 feet away.   high-res

She soon came out of the brush and into open water where we got these photos. She is not actually a duck, she is a Grebe. She has a strong beak and lobed feet, both are different than what ducks have.   high-res

The Pied-Billed Grebe uses her strong beak to crunch up her favorite food, crayfish. She also goes after small fish, and aquatic insect larvae. She is an excellent diver.   high-res

Pied-Billed Grebes tend to float low in the water, which makes it easier for diving. She can control her buoyancy via several methods, including trapping air under her feathers.   high-res

When a Pied-Billed Grebe dives, they usually go in head first like diving ducks do, but they can also simply exhale and sink. When they do that, there is no splashing, no movement and from one moment to the next they are just vanished.   high-res

Male and female Pied-Billed Grebes both look the same so we do not know if this is a male or female. But the black stripe on her beak means she is wearing her breeding colors. Alas she was alone on the River as far as we could tell. We spotted her several times over the next weeks, always alone, but then one day she was joined by two other Grebes, and the 3 of them spent their days together and hunted together. Maybe one day we'll get lucky and spot her with babies, who will ride on her back for their first week or so!   high-res

The Pied-Billed Grebe, perhaps the cutest littlest water bird.

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