A small (13 inches) grebe, the Pied-billed Grebe in summer is most easily identified by its gray-brown body, black chin, and conspicuous black bill stripe. In winter, this species loses its black facial adornments, becoming plain gray-brown overall. Male and female Pied-billed Grebes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Pied-billed Grebe breeds across much of the United States, southern Canada, and the northern half of Mexico. In winter, northerly-breeding Pied-billed Grebes abandon their breeding grounds and migrate south as far as southern Mexico and Central America; populations that breed further south are non-migratory. Other non-migratory populations exist in the West Indies, at isolated sites in Central America, and in South America south to central Argentina. Pied-billed Grebes breed on small lakes and ponds, preferring heavily vegetated areas for nest-building and more open areas for feeding. This species utilizes similar habitat types in winter as in summer. Pied-billed Grebes primarily eat small fish, insects, and crustaceans. In appropriate habitat, Pied-billed Grebes may be observed floating low in the water, periodically diving down to capture prey. Many birdwatchers learn to appreciate the Pied-billed Grebe’s ability to quickly sink into the water with minimal surface disturbance when, after returning their attention to the water after a momentary distraction, they discover the bird has “vanished” without a trace. Pied-billed Grebes are primarily active during the day, but migrating birds fly mainly at night.
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