|Conservation status||Still common and widespread, but surveys show declines in recent decades.|
|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.|
Forages by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled mainly by feet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Southern populations may be permanently resident, northern ones strongly migratory. Apparently migrates mostly at night. Migration relatively late in fall, early in spring.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA series of hollow cuckoo-like notes, cow-cow-cow-cow, cow, cow, cowp, cowp, cowp, that slows down at the end; various clucking sounds.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Pied-billed Grebe
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Pied-billed Grebe
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.