Pied-billed grebe
Podilymbus podiceps
ITIS Species Code:   174505         NatureServ Element Code:   ABNCA02010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  13 Southern Piedmont:  n/a South Atl. Coastal Plain:  n/a
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

29.3 %
4.6 %
20.2 %
8.2 %
9.8 %
1.7 %
11.5 %
1.2 %
3.9 %
7.8 %
7.8 %
0.4 %
0.1 %

64.3 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

2.5 %
0.4 %
1.8 %
0.7 %
0.8 %
0.1 %
1.0 %
0.1 %
0.3 %
0.1 %
0.7 %
< 0.1 %
91.3 %

5.5 %
Uncommon and local on the coast (Fussell 1994); occasional on the barrier islands (Fussell and Lyons 1990). Rarely seen inland during the breeding season (Simpson 1992).

Prefers fresh water habitats with a combination of dense vegetation and open water (Kaufman 1996) such as occur in marshes, swamps, small ponds, bogs (Potter et al. 1980), sheltered parts of estuaries, and especially impoundments (Fussell 1994).

Nest site is in the shallow water of a marshy area next to an opening that allows the grebes to approach the nest while submerged (Kaufman 1996). Nest is a little floating, anchored island of vegetation and debris (Potter et al. 1980).


BREEDING: In eastern U.S., occurs in ponds, sloughs, and marshes, in marshy inlets and along edges of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, and occasionally in estuarine wetlands (Palmer 1962, Chabreck 1963, Cramp et al. 1977, Andrle and Carroll 1988). Nests are typically built in shallow water surrounded by dense vegetation, especially cattail (TYPHA spp.) and bulrush (SCIRPUS spp.), and are farther from shore than from open water (Glover 1953, Stewart 1975, Faaborg 1976, Sealy 1978, Forbes et al. 1989). Wind and waves are major threats to floating nests and surrounding emergent vegetation acts as a wave break, anchors the nest, and conceals the nest from predators (Forbes et al. 1989). Because the direction of wind and waves shifts frequently during the nesting season, sheltered nesting sites can be limiting (Faaborg 1976). In Nova Scotia, avoided nesting on edges of stands of emergent vegetation that were exposed to wave action, and nest-site selection was related to structure but not type of vegetation available (Forbes et al. 1989). In comparison to randomly chosen marsh locations, nests were characterized by greater distance from shore, increased proximity to open water, and deeper water (Forbes et al. 1989).

Microhabitats at Manitoba wetlands included the densest and tallest stands of emergent vegetation available, particularly those in deeper portions of ponds (Nudds 1982). In Iowa, always associated with dense stands of emergent, littoral vegetation, and avoided wetlands with 100% open water (Faaborg 1976). On moist-soil impoundments in Missouri, habitat use was associated with water > 25 cm deep and vegetative cover characterized as 'open, sparse, or short' (Fredrickson and Reid 1986). Grebe use was not associated with shallower waters or 'dense' or 'rank' emergent vegetative cover (Fredrickson and Reid 1986).

NON-BREEDING: Habitats in winter and migration similar to breeding areas (Cramp 1977), but many shift to more exposed areas on brackish, estuarine waters or sheltered inlets on large lakes, rivers, and salt water (Palmer 1962). Root (1988) noted that the densest overwintering populations occur on wide rivers and large lakes.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
3 Tidal Marsh Fresh and brackish tidal marshes, including cord grass, wild rice, sawgrass and needlerush alliances. Brackish Marsh, Interdune pond, Maritime wet grassland
372 Interdune Herbaceous Wetlands Dune swales with permanently flooded to intermittently exposed hydrology. Species composition depends on salinity and can include cut grass, spike-rush, mosquito fern, and hornwort. Interdune Pond, Maritime Wet Grasslands
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
126 Interdune Wooded Depression Swamp Includes swamps dominated by sweetbay and swampbay or dogwood dominated forests. Maritime Shrub Swamp, Maritime Swamp Forest
380 Coastal Plain Fresh Water Emergent Emergent vegetation in fresh water seepage bogs, ponds and riverbeds of the coastal plain. Includes alliances dominated by sedges, eelgrass, as well as cane found in unforested cane-brakes. Small Depression Pond, Sandhill Seep, Floodplain Pool, Unforested Floodplain Canebrake, Riverscour Prairies, Vernal Pools
173 Coastal Plain Riverbank Shrubs Shrub dominated riverbanks, commonly dominated by willows and/or alders. Sand and Mud Bar
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
238 Piedmont/Mountain Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Seasonally to permanently flooded areas with aquatic vegetation. Waterlily, pondweed, hydrilla smartweed are a few of the species that can occur. Piedmont/Mountain Semipermanent Impoundment (in part)
239 Piedmont/Mountain Emergent Vegetation Emergent vegetation of all wetland hydrologies. Sites would commonly support species such as tussock sedge, rushs, and cattail alliances. Rocky Bar and Shore (in part)
267 Riverbank Shrublands Riverside shrubs with temporarily flooded hydrologies. Found in the both the Mountains and Piedmont. Containing dominants such as smooth alder and a Carolina or black willows. Sand and Mud Bar
269 Floodplain Wet Shrublands Saturated shrublands of the Piedmont, includes buttonbush, swamp-loosestrife, decodon and alders. Piedmont/mountain Semipermanent Impoundment
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
203 Urban Low-Intensity Developed Highly developed areas with vegetation accounting for < 20% of the cover. No equivalent
204 Urban High-Intensity Developed and Transportation Corridors Highly developed areas including infrastructure such as roads, railroads. Vegetation represents < 20% of the cover. No equivalent
8 Open water Open water without aquatic vegetation. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude all land greater than 50 meters from an open water feature.
Exclude all water greater than 500 meters from land.
Exclude salt water habitats.
Faaborg, J. 1976. Habitat selection and territorial behavior of the small grebes of North Dakota. Wilson Bulletin 88:390-399.

Nudds, T. D. 1982. Ecological separation of grebes and coots:interference competition or microhabitat selection? Wilson Bulletin 94:505-514.

Gibbs, J.P., and S.M. Melvin. 1992. Pied-billed grebe, PODILYMBUS PODICEPS. Pages 31-49 in K.J. Schneider and D.M. Pence, editors. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the Northeast. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Newton Corner, Massachusetts

Herkert, J. R., editor. 1992. Endangered and threatened species of Illinois:status and distribution. Vol. 2:Animals. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. iv + 142 pp.

Simpson MB Jr. 1992. Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Fussell, J. III and M. Lyons. 1990. Birds of the Outer Banks [pamphlet]. Eastern National Parks and Monument Association Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.

Sealy, S. G. 1978. Clutch size and nest placement of the pied-billed grebe in Manitoba. Wilson Bulletin 90:301-2.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Glover, F. A. 1953. Nesting ecology of the pied-billed grebe in northwestern Iowa. Wilson Bulletin 65:32-9.

Forbes, M. R. L., H. P. Barkhouse, and P. C. Smith. 1989. Nest-site selection by pied-billed grebes PODILYMBUS PODICEPS. Ornis Scandinavia 20:211-8.

Palmer, R. S. (editor). 1962. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 1. Loons through flamingos. Yale University Press, New Haven. 567 pp.

Chabreck, R. H. 1963. Breeding habits of the pied-billed grebe in an impounded coastal marsh in Louisiana. Auk 80:447-52.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1987. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the United States:The 1987 list. Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC. 25 pp.

Stewart, R.E. 1975. Breeding birds of North Dakota. Tri-College Center for Environmental Studies, Fargo ND. 295 pp.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Fredrickson, L.H., and F.A. Reid. 1986. Wetlands and riparian habitats:a nongame management overview. Pages 59-96 in J.B. Hale, L.B. Best, and R. L. Clawson, (eds.) Management of nongame wildlife in the Midwest:a developing art. Proc. Symp. 47th Midwest F

Johnsgard, P. A. 1987. Diving birds of North America. Univ. Nebraska Press, Lincoln. xii + 292 pp.

Andrle, R.F., and J.R. Carroll. 1988. The atlas of breeding birds in New York State. Cornell Univ., Ithaca, New York. 551 pp.

Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds:An analysis of Christmas Bird Count data. University of Chicago Press. 336 pp.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1995. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the United States:The 1995 list. Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC. 22 pp.

Stiles, F.G., and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publ. Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 511 pp.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853