South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

Length: 12 to 15 inches Wingspan: 22 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Thick bill with dark ring (in breeding plumage), small size, stocky profile

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps The smallest of the Grebes found in the state, the Pied-billed Grebe is rarely seen in flight.  When disturbed or threatened, it prefers to slowly sink and swim away underwater, or move away with just it's head above water.  A mature bird in breeding plumage is pictured at the right.  Only mature adults in breeding plumage show the dark ring on their bill.  Photos of juveniles and winter-plumaged adults can be seen by clicking on the photo links at the bottom of the page.

Habitat: Ponds, lakes, marshes.  Usually areas with both heavy marsh vegetation and open water during breeding season, more open water during migration and winter. 

Diet: Nearly any small aquatic creature, including fish, insects, frogs, salamanders, snails.  Also small amounts of aquatic plants. 

Behavior: Foraging is done by diving and swimming underwater in search of prey.  Like many grebes, feathers are sometimes eaten (for reasons that aren't completely understood).

Nesting: Mid-May

Song: Pied-billed Grebe Song

Migration: South Dakota birds migrate in the fall, but birds in the southern U.S. are permanent residents.  

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Pied-billed Grebe sightings

Similar Species: Quite distinctive from most other Grebes, possibly confused with the Least Grebe.

Status: Widespread and common, but surveys show declines in recent decades.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Pied-billed Grebe

2) Pied-billed Grebe

3) WhatBird: Pied-billed Grebe

Photo Information: April 19th, 2003 -- Madison Waterfowl Production Area -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Pied-billed Grebe photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Pied-billed Grebe - Range map
South Dakota Status: Common summer breeding resident throughout the state, although less common in the western part of the state.