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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 podicepsThe 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.


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


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


Foraging is done by diving and swimming underwater in search of prey.  Like many grebes, Pied-billed Grebes often eat their own feathers, which are thought to protect the digestive track from sharp or dangerous bits of food. They also form part of regurgitated pellets, cushioning consumed items that cannot be digested.


Mid-May. The nest of a Pied-billed Grebe is a cup-shaped platform constructed over open water. The next is built of floating wetland vegetation such as cattails/bulrush, in a location with water that's deep enough (usually a foot or more) to offer some protection from terrestrial predators while offering water deep enough for quick, diving escapes. Both parents help to build the nest, with the female then laying between 2 and 10 eggs. Incubation lasts about 24 days, with both parents helping to incubate the eggs. Upon hatching, the young leave the nest and usually are transported on the backs of the parents for a week or more, before taking to the water themselves, where they continue to be guarded and tended by both parents.


I rarely hear Pied-billed Grebes vocalize. However, they are capable of a variety of vocalizations, including some clucking and chattering calls.


South Dakota birds migrate in the fall, but birds in the southern U.S. and much of the western U.S. are permanent residents.  They are also permanent residents in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Interactive eBird Map:

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

Similar Species:

Quite distinctive from most other Grebes in breeding plumage, but if not seen well, or in non-breeding plumage, Pied-billed Grebes could be confused with the following species:

Horned Grebe - Podiceps auritus Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus
Horned Grebe Eared Grebe (non-breeding) Eared Grebe (breeding) Least Grebe


Pied-billed Grebes are found across a very broad geographic area, are common in many parts of their range, and overall population trends are considered stable. The IUCN considers the Pied-billed Grebe to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

April 11th, 2009 - Dewey Gevik Nature Area, South Dakota -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

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

Audio File Credits:

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.

Additional Pied-billed Grebe Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Pied-billed Grebe 1 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 2 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 3 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 4 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 5 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 6 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 7 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 8 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 9 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 10 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 11 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 12 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 13 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 14 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 15 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 16 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 17 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 18 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 19 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 20 - Podilymbus podicepsPied-billed Grebe 21 - Podilymbus podiceps