Pied-billed Grebe With Prey

Pied-billed Grebe with a big fishPied-billed Grebe with a big fish – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Last winter I spent time photographing some Pied-billed Grebes at Farmington Bay WMA, they are feisty little grebes and I often have a great time just watching them preening, resting, squabbling, hunting for prey and consuming it. Pied-billed Grebes aren’t as flashy looking as Western, Red-necked, Eared, Horned or Clark’s Grebes but I find them to be just as interesting as any of the grebe species that are found in Utah.

It can be especially fun to watch these small grebes catch a fish to eat and then see the other Pied-billed Grebes nearby try to steal the fish away from it because of the action that can occur. Last December I photographed this Pied-billed Grebe right after it caught a big fish and saw it swim around keeping an eye on the other grebes while trying to swallow its prey whole, kind of hard to do with a fish that big while on the move. There is a little wake behind the grebe in the photo because another grebe had gotten too close for this grebe’s comfort.

Pied-billed Grebe about to be chasedPied-billed Grebe about to be chased – Nikon D500, f9, 1/400, ISO 200, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

As the Pied-billed Grebe with the fish swam closer to me another pied-billed swam up to it to try to steal its prize away and I hoped to get some action shots of the two of them fighting over the fish but as luck would have it by the time the chase happened the birds were so close that my view of the birds was obstructed by vegetation between side of the road and the edge of the water. That happens to me a lot and as a bird photographer I realize that sometimes things get in the way and just accept it. Sometimes gracefully, sometimes not.

I liked how menacing the out of focus grebe looked in this photo and the odd stretched out reflection of the grebe with the fish in its bill.

Life is good.


Other birds try to steal fish from Pied-billed Grebes too including gulls and mergansers, that is called kleptoparasitism.


  1. Kyle November 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Cool blog and captures! I initially noticed your “Grebe vs fish” shot. Wow that looks like a large (do you know what kind?) potential meal staring down it’s captors throat here!

    So could the bird really manage to win the struggle and gulp that whole thing down okay? Does the fish put up a good fight, if eaten, does the unlucky prey get swallowed wriggling all the way as well?!

  2. Utahbooklover November 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    What a mouthful. Yes, that second image is unusual, especially when it is enlarged (which my iPad Pro allows) to see the details you mentioned.

  3. Elephants Child November 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Definitely an ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ day.
    Amazing shot.

  4. Patty Chadwick November 13, 2017 at 9:38 am

    TI can only echo Liz Cormack!!!

  5. Liz Cormack November 13, 2017 at 6:31 am

    OMGosh, did the Pied-billed Grebe actually swallow that big fish? You would think that it would be too big for not only its throat but its stomach. Fantastic photos.

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