Pied-Billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps
Range Map

Given a full cycle of the seasons, Pied-Billed Grebes will show up anywhere in North America from southern-central Canada to Central America. In the USA they are year-round residents everywhere except New England and west through the Great Lakes to Montana and south to Kansas and Missouri and the northern Appalachians, from where they retreat south in winter.

They build floating nests of reeds and grasses among tall plants in water over 9 inches deep. If conditions are right, Pied-Billed Grebes may raise two broods a season. Habitat losses from wetland destruction are a threat to these birds. Over most of its range, the population is surviving well, but in New England, they have become threatened or endangered.

It’s been my experience these grebes are pretty easy to find on ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams throughout the western USA, especially if they vocalize. These relentless guardians of the marsh are capable of a variety of calls and sometimes perform lively duets that we can hear at a great distance. I’ve had the pleasure of their company in many locations throughout the western USA, from my neighborhood in southern California and north across the state to Oregon, and in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. More recently, I found them in Canada and Nebraska.

Taxonomists recognise three subspecies of Pied-Billed Grebe:

  • P. p. podiceps breeds from south-central Canada to Panama. They spend winters in southern USA, Central America, and the West Indies.
  • P. p. antillarum lives in the Caribbean on the Greater and Lesser Antilles.
  • P. p. antarcticus lives from Panama and Colombia south to Chile and Argentina.

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