Pied-billed grebe

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More names for this bird

Anishinaabemowin: Zhingibis (grebe)

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website. However, complete translations were not available.

Latin (or scientific name): Podilymbus podiceps

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

Spanish: Zampullín Picogrueso

French: Grèbe à bec bigarré

One pied-billed grebe floating on the water's surface. It is a small, mostly brown bird. It has a large eye with a white eye-ring. Its bill is light with a black ring.
Pied-billed grebe on the water.
April 22, 2022, Goodhue County, Minnesota
Photo © cebye, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
iNaturalist observation

About the pied-billed grebe

  • The pied-billed grebe is a small, brown waterfowl that eats mainly eat small fish, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates.
  • Their name describes the black band around a light-colored bill. This fieldmark is often easy-to-see from a distance and is distinct from other birds in the region.
  • These birds create their nests on the water where they lay three to ten white eggs that incubate for twenty-three days. 
  • When they leave their nest, generally within a day of hatching, young pied-billed grebes are black-and-white-striped.
  • Fun fact: Unlike many birds, male and female pied-billed grebes have the same coloring.
  • Pied-billed grebes migrate. Expand the "Migration animation" section below to learn more.

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Migration animation

Click the full-frame icon (lower right corner of video) to play at full size.

Video file

More about eBird's abundance animations

eBird data from 2006-2020. Estimated for 2020. Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, O. Robinson, S. Ligocki, W. Hochachka, L. Jaromczyk, C. Wood, I. Davies, M. Iliff, L. Seitz. 2021. eBird Status and Trends, Data Version: 2020; Released: 2021. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://doi.org/10.2173/ebirdst.2020

Visual guide to phenology

Watch for changes in pied-billed grebes' presence (or absence), abundance, and behaviors at different times of year. Also, pay attention to when young-of-year appear and develop.

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Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch for when observing pied-billed grebe phenology. However, this page does not explain how to identify this bird or collect data in a standardized way.

A pair of pied-billed grebes on still, gray water. These grebes are small, mostly brown birds. They have large eyes, a light-colored eye-ring, and a bill with high contrasting light and dark coloration.
Sixe pied-billed grebes on water. Small waves are on the water's surface and all birds are facing the same direction.
Over fifty waterfowl are in this scene. A single pied-billed grebe is smaller than the other species, which include mallards and American coots.
The water in this wetland scene appears frozen. A single pied-billed grebe is partly concealed by vegetation.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Sherburne County


  • Earliest: March 2 (occurred in 2000)
  • Average: March 27
  • Latest: April 4 and 5 (occurred in 1984 and 1993)
Scatterplot showing pied-billed grebe phenology in Sherburne County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)


Co-author: Lynsey Nass, Minnesota Master Naturalist