Grebe (bird)

   Grebe is a common name for diving birds that belong to the family Podicipedidae. They are closely related to the loon. Grebes maneuver skillfully on water but are very clumsy on land. The legs are so located that the birds maintain an upright position when they sit. They often flop along on the belly, as seals do. The bill is cone-shaped, the head crested, the wings short, and no tail is visible. Because there is no functional tail, the feet are used to form a rudder during flight. The upper parts of the body are brown and the under parts white. The plumage is compact and hairlike and, if it is well dressed by the bird it keeps the bird dry. The breast plumage is sought by milliners for use as hat trimming.
   Grebes are monogamous for a single breeding season. The nest is a "raft" built of twigs, grasses, and weeds. It floats in the water, anchored to aquatic plants near the shore. The eggs are greenish-blue and vary in number from two to nine. The female protects them from predators by plastering them with soft mud. This covering disguises the eggs from enemies, insulates them from the sun's rays and lowered temperature at night. Grebes feed on all kinds of water insects, crustaceans, fish, and feathers. It is not known why feathers are eaten.
   Some representatives of the group are: the western grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis, of western North America, inhabiting fresh-water bodies in the summer and the sea in winter; the horned grebe, Colymbus auritus, found in the northern hemisphere; the dab-chick or pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps, found all over North and South America; and the eared grebe, C. nigricollis, an inhabitant of western North America and Central America.