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Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps ORDER: PODICIPEDIFORMES FAMILY: PODICIPEDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Part bird, part submarine, the Pied-billed Grebe is common across much of North America. These small brown birds have unusually thick bills that turn silver and black in summer. These expert divers inhabit sluggish rivers, freshwater marshes, lakes, and estuaries. They use their chunky bills to kill and eat large crustaceans along with a great variety of fish, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates. Rarely seen in flight and often hidden amid vegetation, Pied-billed Grebes announce their presence with loud, far-reaching calls.

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Calls

Pied-billed Grebes have an extremely variable vocal repertoire. Among the most commonly heard sounds are a long, loud, rhythmic series of bleating whoops, coos, and gulping kuk-kuk-kuk notes; also a rippling, chuckling chatter.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Pied-billed Grebes are widespread and fairly common in most of the U.S. and southern Canada, and you should not have too much trouble finding them, particularly in summer on larger ponds and smaller lakes with ample emergent vegetation, such as cattails and bulrushes. Particularly watch the edges of emergent vegetation and look for roughly circular masses of floating, dead vegetation that might be Pied-billed Grebe nests. In winter, look for the species on larger water bodies where it often aggregates into small flocks. The distinctive very small body and comparatively large, blocky head is a good shape to look for. These birds spend a lot of time diving, so make several scans of a body of water before moving on.

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Grebe’s Take a Dive, Living Bird, summer 2013