Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

A mostly brownish bird with light-colored breast and short light-colored bill with a vertical black stripe through its middle sits on a rock near a lake.

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The pied-billed grebe is a shy and solitary bird. When threatened it may hide in emergent aquatic vegetation, dive below the water's surface, or simply sink into the water. The grebe also will dive for its food, which consists of crawfish; aquatic insects; and small fish, such as perch, sunfish, and minnows.

The grebe, like some other species of waterfowl, builds its open-bowl nest on a floating vegetation mat loosely anchored to reeds or cattails so it can float with varying water levels or waves. Once the chicks hatch, they often ride on the parents’ backs, especially when danger threatens. After about ten days, they usually forego the ride and simply dive beneath the water’s surface when threatened.

Fantastic Facts

  • This grebe may feed on its own feathers, which act to cushion the sharp points of spines and bones of its fish prey.


  • Key ID Features: Small, gray duck-like bird, light bill with a vertical black ring during summer.
  • Present in Park: March through November. Check Lake Snelling in Fort Snelling State Park for these birds.
  • Habitat: Wetlands, lakes, and rivers that have emergent vegetation.
  • Voice: The most common call heard is a rising series of whoops and coos.

Last updated: May 30, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center.

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