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Pied-billed Grebe

Scientific Name:

Podilymbus podiceps

Type:

Bird

Habitat:

Ponds, marshes, estuaries, quiet water with abundant vegetation is preferred.1

Range:

Pied-billed Grebes are common throughout much of North American, as well as parts of Central and South America.1

Status:

Least Concern

This species is

Native

to the Truckee Meadows.

Identification:

Pied-billed grebes are small, brown, water birds. Solitary and secretive, you’re more likely to hear the loud, repeating, jungle like coo-coo-coo call of a Pied-Billed Grebe before seeing one.3 While some waterfowl display dazzlingly bright colors during the mating season, only the beak of pied-billed grebe changes from a dull brown to a bright silver with a vertical black stripe (“pied” refers to two colors) and the chin develops a black patch.1 With legs positioned at the very back end, and lobes on their toes, which resemble paddles, Pied-billed grebes are excellent divers and can maneuver effortlessly in the water.1 These same characteristics make walking on land and even flying a bit more difficult, thus Pied-billed grebes spend most of their time on the water.3 Small fish, crustaceans, insects and frogs are the main items on the Pied-billed grebes dietary list, but they consume a varied diet and will adjust to the availability of prey.1 About the size between a Robin and a Crow, Pied-billed Grebes can be 12-15 inches in length, weigh 9-20 ounces and have wingspans of 18-24 inches.1 Because of their small size, and bland brown color, Pied-billed Grebes are often mistaken for the juvenile offspring of other ducks, but they are quite solitary so they will rarely be seen with other waterfowl.3

Fast Facts:

  • Down periscope! Pied-billed grebes not only dive, but they can sink like a submarine due to their ability to control air trapped in their feathers, and can re-emerge with only the top of their head above water.3

  • While Pied-billed grebes can swim shortly after hatching, the young will often ride on their parents’ back for the first week, even when they dive underwater.1,3

  • Nests are either built in tall, dense, vegetation along the shore, or Pied-billed grebes may construct a floating nest.3

Sources:

  1. Cornell Lab of Ornithology

  2. Fowler, Catherine S., In the Shadow of Fox Peak: An Ethnography of the Cattail-Eater Northern Piaute People of Stillwater Marsh, Cultural Resource Series Number 5, US Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1 Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge 1992.

  3. National Audubon Society

  4. IUCN Red List

Contributor(s):

Regina Hockett, research & content

Dayna Genio, web edits

Last Updated:

July 8, 2024 at 8:20:00 PM

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