Family Grebes (Podicipedidae)


Atitlan Grebe (Podilymbus gigas)


French: Grèbe de l’Atitlan German: Atitlantaucher Spanish: Zampullín del Atitlán
Other common names: Giant Grebe, Giant Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus gigas


, 1929,

Panajachel, north shore of Lake Atitlán, 5300 feet [c. 1615 m], Guatemala


Has been considered a large and flight-impaired subspecies of P. podiceps; the two may have hybridized. Monotypic.


L Atitlán, in SW Guatemala.

Always confined to a single lake, where population never exceeded c. 400 individuals. Introduction of large predatory fish greatly reduced its population, this was exacerbated by egg-collecting, poaching and reed-harvesting during breeding season, and later by urbanization and further habitat destruction. Hybridization with P. podiceps may have played a part in the final extinction of P. gigas, which occurred at some time between 1983 and 1986#R#R.

Descriptive notes

42–52·5 cm; c. 500–800 g. Large, drab-looking grebe with very robust head and bill. Breeding plumage Several views, including close-up Swimming... read more


Song, usually  in early and late parts of day, also at night, as duet, a fast chatter and loud... read more


L Atitlán, at c. 1560 m: near-shore waters with thick emergent vegetation, especially beds... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly fish up to 13 cm long; also insects, especially dragonfly nymphs (Odonata), snails, and the native crab species P... read more


Breeding started in Mar, with peak laying in Apr; nesting possibly throughout year on occasions. Solitary. Nest a large, compact floating... read more


Sedentary; practically flightless.

Status and conservation

  EXTINCT. CITES I. This species was always confined to a single lake, 130 km² in extent, in highlands of S Guatemala. Maximum estimate of global population c.... read more

Recommended citation

Llimona, F., del Hoyo, J., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Atitlan Grebe (Podilymbus gigas). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).