Grebe, grēb, a water bird that resembles a duck, but has individually webbed toes rather than webbed feet. The body, 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 cm) long, is flattened and almost tailless. The head and neck are narrow, the bill short and pointed. A grebe is usually brownish or blackish in summer, gray in winter.

The grebeThe grebe resembles a duck, but has individually webbed toes.

Grebes are expert swimmers and divers, but poor fliers. They feed chiefly on fish, crayfish, and insects. From 3 to 10 white or olive-brown eggs are laid in a nest built on floating vegetation.

Common North American species are the pied-billed grebe, or hell-diver, with a black-banded bill; and the horned grebe, with reddish-brown ear tufts. One of the largest species is the red-necked grebe.

Who Takes Its Young Diving?

When a grebe goes for a swim, it often takes its young along for the ride. This is also true of other swimming birds. But scientists think that grebes are the only birds that take their young diving.

Newly hatched grebes may have to wait weeks before being able to dive well. When a parent is diving for food, young grebes may climb up under the parent’s wings to go along for the dive. Grebes eat small fish, insects, snails, and shrimp.

Grebes are unlike other swimming birds in that they do not have webbed feet. Instead, each toe has a flap of skin that sticks out on one side. When a grebe swims, the flaps open. Each toe looks like a tiny paddle.

Pied-billed grebe is Podilymbus podiceps; horned, Podiceps auritus; red-necked, P. grisegena. Grebes belong to the family Podicipedidae.