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Amazing Pied-billed Grebe

Where'd that bird go?

The small, nondescript Pied-billed Grebe has an astonishing talent. The grebe is the master of its own buoyancy. It can squeeze out both the air trapped in its feathers and in its internal air-sacs and sink effortlessly. Learn more about the amazing, sinking Pied-billed Grebe at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Watch this grebe sink... GOING... going... Go to the photos and video below!

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Full Transcript

The Amazing Sinking Pied-billed Grebe

Written by Bob Sundstrom

Does this song evoke an old jungle movie?

[Pied-billed Grebe song]

Well, actually we’re hearing the Pied-billed Grebe, a common resident bird of freshwater lakes and ponds. In addition to its distinctive voice, the small, nondescript Pied-billed Grebe has an even more astonishing talent. [Pied-billed Grebe song]

Picture a Pied-billed Grebe, dressed in brown, about a foot long, floating like a cork among lily pads. Suddenly the grebe begins to sink, inch by inch, like a submarine – until it disappears! Thirty seconds later, it reappears, just its head above the water, peering left and right.

When ducks dive under the water, they must leap forward and stroke powerfully with their feet to overcome their inherent buoyancy. The grebe, however, is the master of its own buoyancy. It can squeeze out the air trapped in its feathers and internal air-sacs, and sink effortlessly. As a consequence, grebes swim under water more easily than ducks, which must work hard to keep from popping back up to the surface. [Pied-billed Grebe song]

Pied-billed Grebes are found throughout the Lower 48, so if you’re near fresh water, you could hear the male’s unusual song… before he sinks out of view. [Pied-billed Grebe song]

How about taking the plunge with BirdNote -- helping to keep the shows coming your way. We’re supported entirely by listeners. Learn more at I’m Michael Stein.


Call of the Pied-bill Grebe provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller. Ambient from G. F. Budney.

Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to        March 2018               Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#032006PBGRKPLU     PBGR-01b


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