The Pied-billed Dobchick or Grebe was first depicted and described by Mark Catesby nearly 300 years ago. The bird in Catesby’s illustration was a male, collected in South Carolina, and its description is headed by a Latin phrase that very neatly sums up most of what most birders know about this species: Podicepes minor rostro vario, a “rather small grebe with a marked bill.”
Catesby’s rendition is a remarkable piece of ornithological illustration. The distinctive markings of bill, throat, face, and eye are accurate and precise, and the strange, hair-like, silky texture of the feathers is admirably well drawn. The challenge of showing the most characteristic feature of all grebes, the outsized, extravagantly lobed foot, is neatly met by depicting the bird mid-preen.