The Sungrebe is reported from the following countries: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela.
The Sungrebe is distributed on the Atlantic slope from Tamaulipas, Mexico south to eastern Panama (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Howell and Webb 1995, Williams et al. 2009). On the Pacific slope, it occurs in Chiapas, southern Mexico, and in Guatemala (Howell and Webb 1995), and in southern Costa Rica (Stiles and Skutch 1989). West of the Andes in Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986) and Ecuador, south to the province of Guayas (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). In Colombia also occurs in the Cauca valley and in the upper Patía valley (Hilty and Brown 1986). The Sungrebe is more widespread east of the Andes, south to southern Bolivia, southeastern Paraguay, and northeastern Argentina, and central coastal Brazil.
Rare visitor to Trinidad (ffrench 1991). Also one recent record (photographed) from New Mexico, United States (Williams et al. 2009).
The Sungrebe is restricted to the lowlands; the upper distributional limit is 200 m in Mexico (Howell and Webb 1995), 500 m in Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986), and 400 m in Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). Occasionally reported at much higher elevations, however, such as 2600 m in Colombia (Sabana de Bogotá; Hilty and Brown 1986) and even 3600 m in Venezuela (Laguna Mucubají; Hilty 2003).