Pied-billed GrebePodilymbus podiceps

adult, breeding
Garth McElroy/VIREO
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
breeding adult with chicks
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
Pied-billed Grebe



12-15" (30-38 cm). Pigeon-sized. A stocky, uniformly brownish water bird, with stout whitish bill that has black ring around it during breeding season.


A series of hollow cuckoo-like notes, cow-cow-cow-cow, cow, cow, cowp, cowp, cowp, that slows down at the end; various clucking sounds.


song with extended braying at end
chatter duets
chatter call
song duet
immature begging calls


Marshes, ponds; salt water in winter if freshwater habitats freeze.


Breeds from British Columbia, southern Mackenzie, and Nova Scotia southward. Winters in southern states or wherever water remains open.


On ponds and marshes where it breeds, the Pied-billed Grebe advertises its presence with loud, barking calls. It eats small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects but is especially fond of crayfish, which it crushes easily with its stout bill. When alarmed, this grebe often sinks slowly into the water, resurfacing out of sight among the reeds. But it can also dive with amazing speed, a habit that has earned it the nickname "Hell-diver." It is also called the "Dabchick" in some areas. It is the most common nesting grebe in the East.


5-7 whitish eggs, stained brown, in a well-hidden floating mass of dead marsh vegetation anchored to adjacent plants.

Similar Species

adult, breeding

Eared Grebe

12-14" (30-36 cm). A small, slender-necked, slender-billed grebe. In breeding plumage, black head and back; golden ear tufts; black crest. In winter plumage, dark gray above, white below; neck dusky.

breeding adults with fledglings

Least Grebe

8-10" (20-25 cm). Robin-sized. Similar to Pied-billed Grebe, but smaller, with a more slender bill. Brownish gray with orange-yellow eyes and small dark bill.

adult, breeding

Horned Grebe

12-15" (30-38 cm). Small, slender-necked, with short, sharply pointed bill. In breeding plumage, body dark, with rufous neck and flanks; head blackish, with conspicuous buff ear tufts.


iPad Promo