Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps
Pied-billed Grebe specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (13 inches) grebe, the Pied-billed Grebe in summer is most easily identified by its gray-brown body, black chin, and conspicuous black bill stripe. In winter, this species loses its black facial adornments, becoming plain gray-brown overall. Male and female Pied-billed Grebes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Pied-billed Grebe breeds across much of the United States, southern Canada, and the northern half of Mexico. In winter, northerly-breeding Pied-billed Grebes abandon their breeding grounds and migrate south as far as southern Mexico and Central America; populations that breed further south are non-migratory. Other non-migratory populations exist in the West Indies, at isolated sites in Central America, and in South America south to central Argentina. Pied-billed Grebes breed on small lakes and ponds, preferring heavily vegetated areas for nest-building and more open areas for feeding. This species utilizes similar habitat types in winter as in summer. Pied-billed Grebes primarily eat small fish, insects, and crustaceans. In appropriate habitat, Pied-billed Grebes may be observed floating low in the water, periodically diving down to capture prey. Many birdwatchers learn to appreciate the Pied-billed Grebe’s ability to quickly sink into the water with minimal surface disturbance when, after returning their attention to the water after a momentary distraction, they discover the bird has “vanished” without a trace. Pied-billed Grebes are primarily active during the day, but migrating birds fly mainly at night.

DC Information

Uncommon breeding bird along the Eastern and Western Shore, nesting in May and June. Common migrant in all aquatic habitats from February through May and August through December. Many birds winter from November through February. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

This bird, in winter plumage, is on the left.
Date:  9/2/1896
Collected By:  Wm Palmer/Edward J Brown
Locality:  Potomac River, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  293010
This young grebe is in the center of the exhibit.
Date:  8/17/1878
Collected By:  Mr. Hamilton
Locality:  Washington, DC (Carp Ponds)
Sex:  Juvenile
Catalog ID:  75364
This bird, in breeding plumage, is on the right.
Date:  4/16/1912
Collected By:  Henry R Marshall
Locality:  Laurel, MD
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  233681

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31290 Podilymbus podiceps (Pied-billed Grebe)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC45464 Podilymbus podiceps (Pied-billed Grebe)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC45465 Podilymbus podiceps (Pied-billed Grebe)