Birds of Chignik Lake: Pied-billed Grebe – an Alaska Peninsula First

As far as I can determine, this is the lone example of a Pied-billed Grebe recorded on the Alaska Peninsula. The facial striping indicates a first-year bird. (Chignik Lake, January 5, 2019)

The sun hadn’t yet peeked over the mountains rimming Chignik Lake when I noticed a small, grebe-like bird working a nearshore cove. I picked up the binoculars always handy near the living/dining room window and glassed the little bird.

The same bird as above in profile, skim ice in the background. (Chignik Lake, January 5, 2019)

Whoa! There’s a Pied-billed Grebe down below Fred’s! I exclaimed to Barbra. A couple of minutes later, I was clad in waders, camera fixed to its tripod slung over my shoulder. I quietly worked my way toward this out-of-place fellow. Wading out into the water, I stood still, hoping the bird might come closer to check me out.

The grebe did move in a little, but it was still a long shot and there was very little light. I set my aperture to its maximum opening, spun the ISO dial further than I would have cared to, and managed a couple of shots. Then the grebe swam off. Although it hung around for a few days, after that first morning it was always on the far side of the lake. And then it was gone.

From Wikipedia, a Pied-billed in summer plumage. (Mdf – First upload in en wikipedia on 21:02, 27 May 2005 by Mdf)

It’s hard to know what to make of a one-off such as this. Pied-billeds very occasionally have been reported in southern Alaska, but as the map below indicates, this individual was well beyond the typical range for this species. Things are changing in our world; it could be that Pied-billeds are pushing north. For now though, an occurrence such as this is best thought of as an “accidental.” In any event, I was happy to record this species. Maybe this small puzzle piece will have some significance in the future when others study the Chignik area.

Pied-billed Grebe Range Map: with permission from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of the World

Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Order: Podicipediformes
Podilymbus: Podi from Greek, refers to feet at the rear; lympus from the Greek kolympus = diver
podiceps: from Latin for rump-headed

Status at Chignik Lake 2016-19: Accidental

David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63: Not Reported

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010:
Not Reported

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Bird List: Not Reported

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*For a clickable list of bird species and additional information about this project, click here: Birds of Chignik Lake

© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.