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Grebe Bird Species

By: C.M.Shorter
Florida Everglades
Grebe Nesting
Florida Everglades Greb Nesting
Pictures of Grebe of the Florida Everglades

Four Grebe species commonly make their home throughout Florida. Grebes are small, beautifully marked waterfowl found on saltwater bays, estuaries and marshes, but more commonly on freshwater ponds, rivers and streams. These birds construct nests floating in shallow water and are dependent upon emergent vegetation for shelter, nesting and feeding. This stout little water bird found in non-forested waterway terrain, has common names including the American Dabchick and Water Witch.

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According to the current American Ornithologists' list there are 486 species of birds currently listed in the State of Florida. These four species of grebe can be found gliding throughout Florida's diverse aquatic terrain:

Pied-Billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Red-Necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)


Grebes are particularly dependent upon consistent water table levels preferring to nest in the coastal and brackish water areas with constant shallow water levels of about 1 to 1 1/2 feet. Stable water table levels are critical to these aquatic birds since their nests are made of floating aquatic vegetation. Droughts or flooding can cause nests to become stranded as can the winds of our tropical storms and hurricanes. These nests are typically anchored to the bottom or attached to water grasses, cattails and reeds. Many Grebe species can often be seen swimming, diving and floating in the herbaceous cover of their vegetative homes in our inlets and bays. It is quite a treat to see young Grebes hitching a ride on their parents backs moving through the shallows while they feed on small fish, crabs & crustaceans!

Grebes average 12-15 inches in length with a 23" wingspan. They are stocky and compact in frame with a short, blunt bill marked with an encircling broad black band and have small round eyes. Young grebes are born blue-white quickly turning brownish in color with the typical speckling nature gives many young birds to provide camouflage helping them blend into their surroundings. Grebe species usually rear 2 broods per year laying clutches in their aquatic nests of 4-7 eggs which take a little over 3 weeks to hatch. Females primarily tend to the incubation. Parents cover the nests with aquatic vegetation when leaving for any period of time. Chicks can swim almost immediately after hatching.

Grebes are migratory although they spend much more time swimming than they do in flight. More common than many of the other birds of the Everglades, they range throughout the wetlands of the U.S. and migrate in closely-massed flocks. Grebes escape predators by darting leaps or diving and have to be wary of raccoons, gulls and water snake predators. Like many birds they can often have parasites, carry bacterial infections or play host to any one of the 20,000 different species of microscopic nematodes that inhabit our planet. Even more dangerous however is any change of their wetland habitat. Grebe populations are particularly sensitive to channelization of locks and dams, dredging or draining of waterways and, as with so many species, pollution by man-made application of pesticides. The many Grebe species are offered full Federal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

More on Florida Everglades:
Florida Everglades | Pictures of Florida Everglades | Map of Florida Everglades | Animals Florida Everglades | Marjory Stoneman Douglas | Everglades Endangered Species
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