Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bird to look for # 2: Pied-billed Grebe

Among our swimming waterbirds, the most diminutive is the Pied-billed Grebe.  It is common in our area in winter, especially outside the developed area in places like the Bayou Sauvage refuge, but does occur on some of our urban water bodies.  Yesterday I saw two in Bayou St. John, just south of Harrison Avenue, from Wisner.  I often find them on the London Outflow Canal adjacent the UNO campus.  They are usually solitary in such contexts, although in good habitat they will of course be near other waterbirds.

Pied-billed Grebes are non-descript in their coloration- brownish all over, without any distinctive markings.  The one exception is on the bill, where a contrasting black ring may be visible just in from the tip- but this is faint on many.  Their drabness is itself a field mark, but the most useful characters are its small size and its nub-like beak.  The beak is shaped more or less like a bullet (in profile)- moderately short, rounded at the tip.

Pied-billeds dive, and it is likely that one you find will be up and down while you watch.  Sometimes they appear to get sucked under, disappearing belly-first.  One colloquial name is "hell-diver."


For a copy of Birding Made Easy-New Orleans, email me at, or look for it at area book stores.  It is now available at
Uptown:  Garden District Book Shop, Maple Street Book Shop, Octavia Books
French Quarter and Marigny:  Peach Records, Fauborg Marigny Art Books Music, Librairie Book Shop, Beckham's Bookshop, Arcadian Books and Prints, the Crabnet
Mid City:  City Park Botanical Garden, Community Book Center
Metairie:  Double M Feed on W. Esplanade
Harahan:  Double M Feed on Jefferson Hwy
North Shore:  Mandeville Chiropractic

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