Today you saw a pied-billed grebe floating in a little body of water and maybe it made you feel good. You think that makes you an odd duck. Most people wouldn’t know a grebe. They wouldn’t know the word. Or the bird. And wouldn’t care.

But you know both things and you do care. Maybe this shy little water bird, drab, brownish gray with an oddly shaped beak simply reminds you that you know what you’re looking at, and there’s some pleasure in that. Plus pied-billed grebes are somewhat rare. When one shows up, it’s usually alone. You like that.

It does its trademark grebe thing: diving under the water, staying for a while, then popping up far from the spot where it ducked under. You think about that word, “ducked.” There’s an old saying, “if it swims like a duck, looks like a duck, walks like a duck…it’s a duck.”

This dubious wisdom originated in the McCarthy era and was not a kindly commentary about nature or man. Your grebe’s no duck.

If you said to somebody today, “Hey, dig that lonesome little guy floating over there,” they’d probably reply, “That duck?” You’d just smile, keeping your grebe knowledge private.

The word grebe is silly sounding. Nobody wants to hear that the duck they just commented about isn’t a duck, but a “grebe,” whatever the hell that means. So you wouldn’t say grebe. But you like writing it.

Grebe. Greeeeeeb.

Picture of a grebe floating on a lake.

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2 Responses to ““Greeeeeb””

  1. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    A very relatable story, Mike. Thanks for sharing. The “Nene” is not just a great sighting for Hawaiian vacations, but also a great solution to crossword puzzle clues–that’s where most people discover this rare goose.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks! Reminded me of a fun time in our fun family. We were on vacation in Hawaii, driving in an open Jeep. My kids always made fun of my getting excited about spotting interesting birds. We drove past an unusual bird and my son yelled, “Dad look, a grouse, a grebe, an egret!” We laughed at these odd names. But secretly I knew we’d just seen a “Nene.” A bird only found in Hawaii, and it was a cool sighting. Grebe. Hah!

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