Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

Conservation status Still common and widespread, but surveys show declines in recent decades.
Family Grebes
Habitat Ponds, lakes, marshes; in winter, also salt bays. In breeding season, chooses sites with heavy marsh vegetation but with some open water also. In migration and winter, still most likely on marshy freshwater ponds, but also on more open waters, including estuaries and coastal bays.
The most widespread grebe in the New World, and the most familiar in most temperate parts of North America. Far less sociable than most grebes, almost never in flocks, sometimes found singly on small marshy ponds. When disturbed or suspicious, it may sink slowly until only head is above water. Rarely seen in flight. Often secretive in the breeding season, hiding in marsh, making bizarre whinnying, gobbling, cooing noises by day or night.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled mainly by feet.


Eggs

4-7, rarely 2-10. Pale bluish white, becoming stained brownish. Incubation by both sexes (female does more), about 23 days. Eggs are covered with nest material when incubating bird departs. Young: Can swim soon after hatching. Young are fed by both parents, often ride on parents' backs when small; adults may swim underwater with young on back. Age at first flight not well known. One or 2 broods per year, possibly more in south.


Young

Can swim soon after hatching. Young are fed by both parents, often ride on parents' backs when small; adults may swim underwater with young on back. Age at first flight not well known. One or 2 broods per year, possibly more in south.

Diet

Insects, fish, other aquatic life. Diet highly variable with location and season; probably eats most small aquatic creatures in its habitat. Major food items include aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fish, leeches; also eats mollusks, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, spiders, small amounts of aquatic plants. Like other grebes, swallows many feathers, and feeds feathers to its young.


Nesting

Where climate allows, may have a long breeding season, from early spring to mid-autumn. Courtship displays less ritualized than in most grebes, involving much calling, sometimes in duet. Nest: Site is in shallow water in marsh, next to opening so that birds can approach nest underwater. Nest (built by both sexes) a dense mass of plant material, floating or built up from bottom, anchored to standing vegetation.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Southern populations may be permanently resident, northern ones strongly migratory. Apparently migrates mostly at night. Migration relatively late in fall, early in spring.

Help this bird. Donate today
Migration

Southern populations may be permanently resident, northern ones strongly migratory. Apparently migrates mostly at night. Migration relatively late in fall, early in spring.

Songs and Calls
A series of hollow cuckoo-like notes, cow-cow-cow-cow, cow, cow, cowp, cowp, cowp, that slows down at the end; various clucking sounds.