The pied-billed grebe is small, stocky, and short-necked. It is 12 to 15 inches in length, it has a wingspan of 18 to 24 inches and weighs 8.9 to 20.0 oz. It is usually brown or gray in color. It has a short, blunt chicken-like bill, which in summer is encircled by a broad black band (hence the name). It is the only grebe that does not show a white wing patch in flight. The sexes are monomorphic (meaning no sexual dimorphism).
Found on many open waters, such as remote ponds, marshes, and sluggish streams. It is usually the first grebe to arrive on northern inland waters in springtime, and the last to leave in autumn. It is rare on salt water.