New York Natural Heritage Program
Pied-billed Grebe
Podilymbus podiceps (Linnaeus, 1758)

Habitat [-]
Pied-billed grebes inhabit quiet marshes, marshy shorelines of ponds, shallow lakes, or marshy bays and slow moving streams with sedgy banks or adjacent marshes; rarely in brackish marshes with limited tidal fluctuation. Although plant species in breeding marshes may vary, a 50/50 combination ("hemi- marsh") of emergent vegetation interspersed with open water is desirable (Andrle and Carroll 1988). Grebes avoid dense emergent vegetation, and muskrats appear to play an important role in opening up dense cattail stands and providing cut stalks for nest construction. Ideal water depths for nesting range from 25 to 50 cm (Seyler 2003). Grebes set up breeding territories more commonly in wetlands impounded by beavers or humans than in those of glacial origin, and individual pairs appear to favor wetlands of intermediate size (0.6 - 7.0 ha) over very large or small wetlands (Gibbs and Melvin 1992).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Backwater slough
    The aquatic community of quiet to stagnant waters in sloughs that form in embayments and old meanders that are cut off from an unconfined river or marsh headwater stream only at the upstream end by deposition of a levee.
  • Deep emergent marsh
    A marsh community flooded by waters that are not subject to violent wave action. Water depths can range from 6 in to 6.6 ft (15 cm to 2 m). Water levels may fluctuate seasonally, but the substrate is rarely dry, and there is usually standing water in the fall.
  • Impounded marsh
    A marsh (with less than 50% cover of trees) in which the water levels have been artificially manipulated or modified, often for the purpose of improving waterfowl habitat.
  • Marsh headwater stream
    The aquatic community of a small, marshy perennial brook with a very low gradient, slow flow rate, and cool to warm water that flows through a marsh, fen, or swamp where a stream system originates. These streams usually have clearly distinguished meanders (i.e., high sinuosity) and are in unconfined landscapes.
  • Shallow emergent marsh
    A marsh meadow community that occurs on soils that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. This marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 6 in to 3.3 ft (15 cm to 1 m) during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid to late summer and the soil is exposed during an average year.
  • Shrub swamp*
    An inland wetland dominated by tall shrubs that occurs along the shore of a lake or river, in a wet depression or valley not associated with lakes, or as a transition zone between a marsh, fen, or bog and a swamp or upland community. Shrub swamps are very common and quite variable.

    * probable association but not confirmed

Associated Species [-]
  • American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
  • Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
  • American Coot (Fulica americana)
  • Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  • Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)