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A photo of a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

The Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps, is a modestly sized member of the grebe family, with a distinctive stout, chicken-like bill marked by a black band during the summer months. This bird is predominantly brown with a darker back and crown, and a white undertail. It measures 31–38 cm in length, has a wingspan of 45–62 cm, and weighs between 253–568 g. The species exhibits no sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females appear similar.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Pied-billed Grebe, look for its small, stocky build and short neck. The bill is short, blunt, and light grey, with a black band in the summer. Unlike other grebes, it lacks white under the wings in flight. Juveniles display black and white stripes and resemble winter adults. The species is adept at diving and when in flight, its feet trail behind due to their placement at the rear of the body.

Habitat

Pied-billed Grebes favor freshwater wetlands with emergent vegetation such as cattails. They are also known to inhabit saltwater environments occasionally. During breeding, they prefer areas with open water nearby, while in winter, they are more commonly found in open water.

Distribution

This grebe is widespread across North and Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. It is a year-round resident in many areas, but northern populations migrate to warmer climates during winter. They have been recorded as vagrants in Europe and Hawaii.

Behaviour

Pied-billed Grebes are elusive, often diving to avoid danger. They are not typically found in flocks and exhibit territorial behavior during the breeding season. Courtship involves vocalizations and sometimes duets. They are known for their ability to control buoyancy by trapping air in their feathers.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Pied-billed Grebe are distinctive, described as a loud "whooping kuk-kuk-cow-cow-cow-cowp-cowp," reminiscent of the yellow-billed cuckoo's call.

Breeding

Breeding occurs across a wide range, from south-central Canada to temperate South America. Nests are built on water, with eggs laid in vegetation. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 23 days. Chicks are downy upon hatching and are carried on parents' backs, especially when danger is near.

Similar Species

The Pied-billed Grebe can be confused with the Least Grebe, which is smaller with a thinner bill. Other similar-sized grebes, such as the Eared and Horned Grebes, have more colorful breeding plumage and red eyes in winter.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists mainly of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, amphibians, and occasionally plants. They are divers and use their bills to crush prey like crustaceans. Grebes consume their own feathers to aid digestion and feed them to their young.

Conservation status

The Pied-billed Grebe is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, populations in the Northeastern United States are declining, with habitat loss being the primary threat. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Pied-billed Grebe Sounds



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Pied-billed Grebe Fun Facts

Did you know?
Pied-billed Grebes eat feathers to help digest their prey.

Pied-billed Grebes on Birda

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