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Grebes ( Podicipedidae ) By: Kristina Best Wetland Wildlife Management Eastern Kentucky University Taxonomy of Grebes Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves Order: Podicipediformes Family: Podicipedidae Genus: Podilymbus or Podiceps

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Grebes podicipedidae l.jpg

Grebes( Podicipedidae )

By: Kristina Best

Wetland Wildlife Management

Eastern Kentucky University


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Taxonomy of Grebes

  • Phylum: Chordata

  • Class: Aves

  • Order: Podicipediformes

  • Family: Podicipedidae

  • Genus: Podilymbus or Podiceps


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The History of Grebes

  • Grebes have been around for at least 80 million years.

  • Many fossils have been found: Very successful species.

  • Not closely related to any other birds.


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In General

  • Diving Birds

  • Legs set back on body

  • Toes with three lobes for swimming

  • Spend most of time in water and are very awkward on land

  • Many have not been studied extensively

  • Very diverse and interesting


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In General

  • Distributed throughout the world

  • Absent from the arctic, antarctic, and some islands in the ocean

  • Grebes have one family (Podicipedidae), six genera, and 22 species

  • They leave the water only to nest, walking very short distances upright like penguins.


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Grebe Toes

  • Grebes Have three asymmetrically lobed toes that are thought to aid in swimming.

  • Adds lift and increases energy efficiency.

  • The toes being separate increases lift to drag ratio.

  • (Johansson and Norberg 2000)


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Grebe Diving

  • Feathers are dense and water proof

  • On underside, feathers are at right angles to the skin.

  • They stick straight out and then curl at the tip.

  • By pressing feathers against the body, grebes can adjust their buoyancy.

  • This allows them to swim in the water with only their heads above the water.

  • They will often do this to hide instead of flying away.


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Pied-Billed GrebePodilymbus podiceps

  • 9-12 inches long

  • Sexes similar

  • Small grebe with a short, thick bill

  • Brown plumage that is darker on back

  • May or may not have a black ring around bill

  • White coverts under the tail


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Pied Billed Grebe

  • Lives in fresh water, but will go to salt water in the winter when ponds and lakes freeze

  • Breeds in open water

  • Seasonally monogamous

  • Construct floating nests connected to vegitation

  • 2 to 10 pale bluish or greenish eggs

  • incubated by both parents

  • 23 days until hatch




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Pied-Billed Grebe

  • Chicks will ride on parents back or cling to tail, although they can swim right after hatching

  • Eat mostly aquatic invertebrates

  • Sometimes eat fish, small reptiles, and amphibians


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Horned GrebePodiceps nigricollis

  • 12-15 inches long

  • Short pointed bill

  • Sexes similar

  • Short, thin, black bill with pale tip

  • Breeding: Head black with gold strip going from back of eye to back of head. Reddish neck, dark back, and white belly.

  • Winter: Black cap, hind-neck, and back.White face, fore-neck, and belly.


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Horned Grebe

  • Breeds on marshes and lakes

  • Winters on saltwater and lakes that do not freeze

  • 4-7 bluish white eggs

  • Incubation 22-25 days

  • 45-60 days till fledge

  • Young can swim after hatching

  • Ride on parents back




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Horned Grebe

  • Eat mainly fish and aquatic invertebrates

  • Swallow own feathers which lodge in stomach and prevent fish bones from interring intestines

  • Rarely seen at night. Once on wintering grounds they seldom fly

  • Migrate at night


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Eared GrebePodiceps nigricollis

  • 12 inches long with a 23 inch wingspan

  • Short, thin, black bill with no pale area

  • Sexes similar

  • Breeding: Black head with a golden ray of feathers behind eye. Black neck and back with reddish sides.

  • Winter: Gray/white neck and chin. Dark body with whitish sides.




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Red-necked Grebe(Podiceps grisegena)

  • 18-20 inches

  • has red neck, black cap, whitish cheeks, and long, pointed yellowish bill.

  • In winter, grey with paler cheeks and bill




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Western Grebe

  • 18 inches long with a 40 inch wing span

  • Long neck and long, yellow-green bill

  • Black crown, nape, and dark body

  • White neck and belly



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Key to the Grebes

  • Overall size?    = Robin-sized       Bill shape?           = short & thick .... Pied-billed Grebe           = thin bill              Eye color?                  =   yellow....  Least Grebe                  =   red                      Season?                         = summer                            Golden tuft?                                = horns like an expanding eyebrow....  Horned Grebe                                = ears fanning out behind eye....  Eared Grebe                         = winter                            Face?                                = black cap above eye, white face below eye....  Horned Grebe                                = black face with white U-shaped crescent along lower edge... Eared Grebe   = Mallard-sized      Neck color?          = red-fronted in summer or mottled gray in winter.... Red-necked Grebe          = black & white, sharply defined edges              Eye background?                  =   white around eye....  Clark's Grebe                  =   black around eye....  Western Grebe


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Management Practices

  • Control sedimentation, pollution, and water levels

  • Develop or maintain wetlands

  • Don’t let livestock in or on bank of stream or wetland

  • Control predators: Wild dogs

  • Restrict human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting

  • Maintain good vegetation for breeding


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Avoid installation of channels and dams

Avoid dredging

Control the use of herbicide, pesticide, and insecticide