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Three species of Grebe occur in New York and New England: the Horned Grebe and Holbæll's Grebe are common off the coast as migrants or winter visitants; the Piedbilled Grebe is found either as a migrant or as a rare summer resident on inland waters. Grebes are noted for their powers of diving quickly, and of swimming long distances under water. They can also sink in the water, so that only the bill and a small portion of the head appear; sometimes they disappear wholly in this way, but as a rule they leap forward, showing a clean pair of “heels." It is often difficult to distinguish between Holbell's Grebe and the Red-throated Loon. If the two occur together, the Loon's greater size is apparent; if the wing is spread, the Grebe shows a white patch. The longer neck and narrow head distinguish a Grebe from a diving duck.

PIED-BILLED GREBE. Podilymbus podiceps
13.50 in.

Ad. in summer.— Middle of throat black; sides of head gray; top of head, back, wings, and tail dark grayish-brown; neck and breast brownish; belly whitish; bill whitish, crossed in the middle by a black band. Ad. ♂ in fall.— Upper parts sooty-brownish; throat whitish; fore neck, breast, and sides brown; rest of under parts silvery-whitish; wing often shows a little white when spread. Ad. ♀ and Im. in fall.— Similar, but paler.

Nest, a mass of stalks, sometimes floating, and attached to surrounding reeds. Eggs, dull-white, generally stained.

The Pied-billed Grebe, Dabchick, or Hell-diver, is a local summer resident of New York and New England. It breeds in quiet lagoons in ponds or lakes, where reedy shores or a growth of water-loving bushes give it shelter. Such conditions are commonest in Maine, but it breeds also in a few ponds in southern New Hampshire and in Berkshire County, Mass., and undoubtedly in Vermont and northern Connecticut. In the Hudson Valley and in the vicinity of New York it is rare in summer. Throughout New York and New England it is a regular spring and autumn migrant in April, and in September and October. It may then occur on any bit of inland water, particularly where there are sheltered bays, and in the brackish lagoons along the sea-coast. It is rarely seen in the sea itself.

The ease with which the Pied-billed Grebe dives is notorious; sometimes it turns a clean pair of “heels,” sometimes it sinks gently down till only its bill is exposed. Its notes are extremely loud and striking; the commonest is a loud cuck-cuck-cuck-cuck, kow, kow, kow, that suggests the notes of a cuckoo. A rarer note is a loud wah'hoo, wah'-hoo, wah'-hoo, suggesting, in the quality of the tone, the call of the Loon. It has also an alarm-note, a low toot, toot, toot.

The brownish fore neck and upper breast will distinguish this grebe in autumn from the following species, which has pure white under parts. In spring and summer, adults have a small black patch in the middle of the throat; the black band across the middle of the whitish bill shows only at close range.

HORNED GREBE. Colymbus [Podiceps] auritus
13.50 in.

Ad. in late spring.— Top of head and hind neck black; two patches of light reddish-brown back of eye; sides of head and throat black; the feathers on the sides of the head stand out and form broad tufts; fore neck below the throat and flanks reddish-brown; back and wings blackish; wing-patch white. Ad. in winter and Im.— Top of head, hind neck, back, and wings blackish; throat and sides of head below eye white; fore neck below throat lightly washed with dusky; rest of under parts silvery-white; wing-patch white.

Nest, a bed of reeds, often floating. Eggs, dull white.

The Horned Grebe is a common migrant along the seacoast in October and November, and in March and April; it also occurs as a migrant on inland waters, especially in the autumn, but except on large streams and lakes is not nearly so common inland as the preceding species. Along the sea-coast it is a common winter visitant; it breeds sparingly in northeastern Maine (Knight).


Horned Grebe, in Winter.

It is occasionally seen in spring in the breeding plumage, when its “ruff” of black and yellowish-brown is a striking sight; but ordinarily it is blackish-brown above and white below. It may always be distinguished from the preceding species by the pure white of its under parts, and when it opens its wings by the white wing-patch. (See, also, the following species.)

HOLBOELL'S [RED-NECKED] GREBE. Colymbus holbællii [Podiceps grisegena holbællii]
19.00 in.

Ad. in late spring.— Top of head and hind neck black; back and wings blackish; throat and sides of head grayish-white; fore neck brownish-red, deepening on the sides; breast white, spotted with reddish; belly silver-white; wing-patch white. Ad. in early fall.— Similar to above, but the red paler, often very pale. Ad. in winter and Im.— Upper parts blackish; throat whitish; neck brownish; under parts whitish; wing-patch white.

Holbæell's Grebe is a common migrant along the coast in October, and in April and May, and a rather uncommon winter visitant. It comes fairly close in-shore, sometimes in company with others of its species, often with the Horned Grebe or the loons. When with the Horned Grebe, its larger size is evident; when alone, its brownish fore neck will distinguish it from its smaller relative. The Red-throated Loon, however, though evidently larger when seen with Holbæll's Grebe, complicates the problem, and often makes the identity of a lone diving bird of medium size a puzzling question. If the bird is a grebe, the white wing-patch will show when it shakes its wings or flies. A grebe's flight, too, is not so steady and strong as that of a loon, nor does its neck seem so thick. If the upper parts can be seen at close range, the white spots on the loon will distinguish it.

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