The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Grebes

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GREBES, grēbz, a well-defined group of water-bird (Colymbidæ or Podicipidæ) comprises 25 species, spread over practically Ihe whole world. The grebes are peculiar in having the legs placed very far back, in their flattened tarsi and lobed (not webbed) toes, each digit being flattened and bordered by an extension of horny skin. They are expert swimmers and pre-eminent as divers. They nest in secluded ponds and bogs, piling up a mass of vegetable matter upon some floating foundation, and deposit chalky white eggs. When the female leaves the nest she usually covers the eggs over with vegetable matter. The little grebes are expert swimmers and divers from the time they are hatched, and in their soft downy plumage are exceedingly beautiful. During migrations grebes are found frequently along our rivers and sea coasts, and are often shot by duck hunters in the autumn and winter. Though they have no stiffened tail feathers, and have relatively very small wings, they are able to fly long distances. The body plumage is soft and compact, and that of the under surface is a beautiful silvery white, which makes “grebe-breasts” a very desirable article in the millinery trade. The best-known species in eastern North America are the horned grebe (Colymbus auritus) which has a peculiar ruff of black, and rusty feathers about the head; and the pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) a rather more heavily built bird without a ruff and with a thicker and shorter bill. Both are popularly known as “hell-divers.” In Europe the common species are the horned grebe, the great crested grebe (C. cristatus) and the dabchick (C. fluviatilis).