Migratory Bird Profile: Pied-Billed Grebe

Fall migration is in full swing at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Some highlights so far have been frequent sightings of a female belted kingfisher and tons of warblers in mixed-species flocks including orange-crowned, black-and-white, Nashville and Wilson's Warblers.

In coming weeks, I will profile several of the migratory species that are making their way through Nature Boardwalk. The pied-billed grebe seems like a good place to start!

Pied-billed grebes are small brown waterbirds. Their short beaks are ringed with black in the summer, which is where this species gets its name. One fun fact about pied-billed grebes is that babies will hop on the backs of one of their parents when they are feeling threatened.

The pied-billed grebe in this photo was first sighted at Nature Boardwalk on Monday, September 26. It has stuck around at the pond all week, most likely taking this opportunity to refuel for the journey ahead. Since this bird found the pond to its liking and has decided to hang out for a while, if you come down to Nature Boardwalk soon you'll have a good shot at spotting it.

It also helps that you'll know right where to look: this bird will be in its comfort zone, swimming in the water. We've been seeing the grebe between the boardwalk and the island at the south end of the pond. Pied-billed grebes are somewhat shy birds that will duck under water if disturbed. They are very rarely seen flying, as they tend to fly after dark.

We expect that one of these mornings, when we go out to do our daily bird count, the pied-billed grebe will have departed in the night to continue its journey south for the winter. Be sure to come down to Nature Boardwalk soon to see if you can spot this bird—or any of the other exciting migratory birds passing through Nature Boardwalk this fall.

Vicky Hunt


I love these guys. Unfortunately one crash landed in the middle of the road on Broadway last spring. I was with a few other people who managed to rescue it and get it to an animal rescue group, but unfortunately it died a few months into its recovery. :( I documented the experience on my blog:




Thanks for sharing Kymberlee. It's good you helped, even if the final outcome was a sad one.

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