Podilymbus podiceps podiceps

Status:  Common regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Common regular breeder Sandhills, fairly common elsewhere. Rare casual winter visitor North Platte and Platte River valleys southward.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM6004, 20 Apr 1890 Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy: Three subspecies are recognized, one in North America, podiceps (Pyle 2008).

Spring:  Feb 22, 23, 24 <<<>>> summer (east)
Mar 23, 24, 26 <<<>>> summer (west)

Peak migratory movement occurs late Mar through Apr, although migrants may occur as early as Feb. There are earlier eastern reports 17 Feb 2013 Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co and 20 Feb 2016 Carter Lake, Omaha, and early westerly reports 19 Feb 2000 of two at Clear Creek WMA, Keith and Garden Cos, 21 Feb 2020 Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co, 22 Feb 1998 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, 22 Feb 2020 Lake Ogallala, 17 Mar 2018 Keith Co, and 18 Mar 2017 in southern Garden Co. One in southern Cherry Co 5 Mar 2016 was early for that northerly location.

  • High counts: 127 at Holmes Lake, Lancaster Co 11 Apr 2019, 123 at Capitol Beach Lake, Lancaster Co 10 Apr 2019, 120 on 16 Apr 2012 at Offutt Base Lake, Sarpy Co, and 114 at Branched Oak Lake 10 Apr 2013.

Summer:  This species is a common breeder in shallow Sandhills lakes and there are scattered breeding records throughout the state (Ducey 1988).  Breeding in wetland complexes such as the Rainwater Basin, with unpredictable hydro-periods, occurs infrequently and is associated with precipitation cycles; more nesting occurs during periods of increased precipitation when wetlands have sufficient water and suitable habitat (Jorgensen 2012, 2016).

  • Breeding phenology:
    Eggs: 5 Jun-19 Jul
    Dependent young: 20 May-25 Aug (this 20 May date implies egg-laying around 23 Apr, a few days earlier than earliest egg dates in Missouri and Kansas).
  • High counts: 143 at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co 12 Aug 1997.

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Jan 6, 7, 8

The fall migration is protracted, beginning in mid-Aug and continuing until late Nov, with stragglers remaining until freeze-up. Later fall dates, all in 2019 were of singles in Red Willow Co 9-14 Jan, Dawson Co 12 Jan, and Dakota Co 14 Jan.

An early migrant was in Saunders Co 21 Jul 2000 where the species did not summer, 17 arrived at Orleans SL, Harlan Co 6 Aug 2002, and a flock of 43 was at Wehrspann Lake, Sarpy Co 16 Aug 2012.

  • High counts: 860 at Lake Babcock, Platte Co 20 Sep 1998, 720 on 23 Sep 1994 at DeSoto NWR, Washington Co when many flocks of 20-70 birds were noted after a strong cold front, and 475 at Offutt Base Lake 20 Sep 2000.

Winter:  There are several reports of overwintering or mid-winter individuals likely attempting to overwinter. Rosche (1994) stated that “during most winter seasons a few remain on the open waters of the Lewellen marshes, the Kingsley Dam spillway, and elsewhere.”  Reports from Lake Ogallala consist of one there 21 Dec 1995-20 Jan 1996 and possibly the same individual there during winter 1997-98, four wintering 1999-2000, two there as late as 11 Jan 2011, and one there 22 Jan 2015. Five were at Lake McConaughy 2 Jan 2016 and one of these was likely a bird seen there 28 Jan. Elsewhere the only reported overwintering was of 1-3 birds at Carter Lake, Omaha, Douglas Co 2012-2013.

Additional mid-winter reports, some of which might have been overwintering, were of singles on Salt Creek, Lincoln, Lancaster Co 1 Feb 2013, Sutherland Reservoir 2 Feb 2019, 5 Feb 2016 Buffalo Co, five on Grove Lake, Antelope Co 7 Feb 1999, Branched Oak Lake 9 Feb 2013,  and Dawson Co 9 Feb 2002.


NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Waterfowl Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)

Literature Cited

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2016.  A summary of 2015 breeding bird surveys of selected Rainwater Basin wetlands.  Nongame Bird Program of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Pyle, P. 2008. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part II, Anatidae to Alcidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 27 Mar 2020