GREBE (Fr. grebe, from Bret. krib, Welsh, Corn. crib, comb). A bird of the family Podi eipidae, having the feet not webbed in the usual manner, but lobate; that is, with a separate membrane for each toe, united only at the base. The tarsi (shanks) are so much compressed as to be almost like blades. The claws are large and flat. The bill is about as long as the head, straight and conical. The wings are short. There is no visible tail. The legs are attached so far hack that the birds when on land assume an erect position, like penguins. They walk with difficulty, and all their motions on land are awk ward. They sometimes shuffle along on their bel lies like seals. But in water they are extremely agile; they swim rapidly, dive with extreme quickness if alarmed, and pass to very consider able distances under water. They feed on fishes, batrachians, crustaceans, and other aquatic ani mals, partly also on vegetable food. They are said sometimes to carry their young under their wings, and even to take them under water with them in diving to escape from enemies. The geographical distribution of the group is very wide, and some of its species are also very widely distributed. Grebe-shooting is a favorite amuse ment in some places. The grebe is pursued by a boat, while it seeks to escape by diving and swim ming under water.
One• incentive to this hunting is the demand of fashion for grebe-skins. The plumage of the breast is very dense, silky, and warm, and has been in great vogue for women's muffs and for hat and dress trimmings. Thousands of these interesting birds are sacrificed yearly for these trivial purposes—a slaughter which ought at once to be stopped. None of the grebes are bright-colored, black, brown, gray, and white being the usual shades, but a few forms have steel-blue, tawny, or rich reddish-brown mark ings on the head and neck. When in full breeding plumage some have the head ornamented with handsome tufts. In this condition their appear ance is very different from that of the young or the adults in winter. Rather more than twenty species of grebes are known, of which at least half a dozen are North American. The best
known of these is the dabchick, which is closely allied to the European little grebe (Podiceps minor). The American dabchick or pied-bill grebe, or 'hell-diver' (Podilymbus podiceps), is a common bird from the Argentine Republic north ward to Hudson's Bay, and it breeds locally throughout its range. It winters from the mid dle United States southward. It is small, not much more than a foot long, brownish-black above, fading into pure white on the belly. The bill is light bluish, encircled by it broad, black band. The dabchick is an exceptionally expert swimmer, and can swim for some distance with only its bill above water. The nest is made of vegetation in the water, sometimes practically floating on the surface, so that the young can take to the water as soon as they are hatched.
The largest American species is the Western grebe (rEchntophorus occidentalis), which is from two to two and one-half feet long, and has a straight, slender, and acute bill, three inches long. There are two very distinct varieties, one much smaller than the other, but both are com mon in the Western United States. The red necked grebe (Columbus Holbocllii) is another large species, 19 inches long, found throughout North America, but in the United States only in winter. Two of the commonest American grebes are the horned grebe (Columbus auritus) and the American eared grebe (Columbus nigri coiiis, var. Californicus). The former is found throughout North America, the latter only west of the Mississippi. The smallest American grebe is the Saint Domingo grebe (Columbus Domini cue), which is found in the warmer parts of America, and only as far north as the valley of the Rio Grande. It is less than 10 inches long, the bill is very short, and there are no crests or ruffs. The great-crested grebe of Europe (Columbus or Podiceps aristatus) is a large and conspicuous species, 2 feet long; its occurrence in North America seems to be very doubtful. See Plate of ALBATROSS, AUKS, ETC.