Size: 13" long, by 6" wide, by 6" high.
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.
Size & Shape
Pied-billed Grebes are small, chunky swimming birds. They have compact bodies and slender necks, with relatively large, blocky heads and short, thick bills. They have virtually no tail.
These are brown birds, slightly darker above and more tawny-brown on the underparts. During spring and summer, the crown and nape are dark and the throat is black. While breeding, the bill is whitish with a black band (“pied’), but otherwise is yellow-brown. Juveniles have striped faces.
Pied-billed Grebes can adjust their buoyancy and often use this ability to float with just the upper half of the head above the water. They catch small fish and invertebrates by diving or simply slowly submerging. They build floating nests of cattails, grasses, and other vegetation.
Look for Pied-billed Grebes on small, quiet ponds and marshes where thick vegetation grows out of the water. In winter they occurs on larger water bodies, occasionally in large groups.
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.