This is the smallest and least colorful of the grebes in our area, and it is heard more frequently than it is seen. Pied-billed Grebes are secretive and inconspicuous, and they can swim and dive without creating a ripple. When frightened by an intruder, these birds might slowly submerge up to their heads, so that only their bill and eyes remain above water. Podiceps is from the Latin podex, meaning 'rump,' and pedis, meaning 'foot,' in reference to the way the bird's feet are located far back on its body. In flight, the feet extend beyond the tail and help the bird steer.
I.D.: Sexes similar. Breeding: all-brown body; black, vertical band on light-colored bill; bill is flattened on the sides; black throat; very short tail; white undertail coverts; pale belly; white eye ring; black eyes.
Size: L 12-15 in. (30-38 cm).
Range: uncommon summer resident and migrant throughout the Rockies.
Habitat: low-elevation wetlands (ponds, marshes, backwaters, etc.) with thick, emergent vegetation.
Nesting: in thick vegetation in lake edges, ponds and marshes; shallow, floating platform nest, made of wet and decaying plants, is anchored to or placed among emergent vegetation; pair incubates 4-5 eggs and raises the striped young.
Feeding: makes shallow dives and gleans the surface for aquatic invertebrates, small fish, adult and larval amphibians and, occasionally, water plants.
Voice: loud, whooping call that begins quickly, then slows down: kuk-kuk-kuk cow cow cow cowp cowp cowp.
Similar Species: Eared Grebe: gold ear tufts; chestnut flanks. Horned Grebe: gold ear tufts; red neck. American Coot: all-black body; often seen on land.