Monday, 29 November 2010

Pied-billed grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

(Photo from Wikipedia)

Common name:

Order Podicipediformes
Family Podicipedidae

The pied-billed grebe is present in much of the American continent, from south-central Canada in the north, through the United States, Central America and the Caribbean, into the northern countries of South America. They are also present along the Pacific coast of Ecuador and Peru, and in the temperate parts of South America, in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, south-east Bolivia and southern Brazil.

These birds are 31-38 cm long and have a wingspan of 45-62 cm. They can weigh up to 570 g.

They breed at low elevations in ponds, lakes, marshes and slow moving streams, choosing areas with emergent vegetation to anchor their nests. During winter they can be found in both fresh and salt water, and use more open waters. In migration they may be found at higher elevations, even in mountain lakes.

Their bill is adapted to crushing large crustaceans and they often eat crayfish. The diet also includes insects, small fish and amphibians. They are know to eat their own feathers to avoid injuries from swallowing bones and shells.

Both parents build a bowl-shaped nest in a platform of floating vegetation. The female lays 5-7 bluish-white eggs which are incubated by both parents for 23 days. When they leave the nest unattended, the parents cover the eggs with plant material. Soon after hatching the chicks can swim on their own, but the parents will feed them and even carry them on their backs for the first few weeks.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
With an extremely wide breeding range and a stable population, this species is not threatened at present.

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