Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Eared Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

A common grebe of freshwater lakes in the west. Gregarious at all seasons; nests in dense colonies, sometimes congregates in huge numbers on lakes during migration and winter. Probably as an adaptation to life in the arid west, it is flexible in distribution, quickly taking advantage of temporary or man-made new bodies of water.
Conservation status Populations generally stable, but vulnerable because large numbers depend on just a few major lakes at some seasons (such as Great Salt Lake, Mono Lake, Salton Sea).
Family Grebes
Habitat Prairie lakes, ponds; in winter, open lakes, salt bays. Favored nesting areas are lakes or large ponds with extensive marshy borders. Opportunistic, it may quickly occupy new or temporary habitats. During migration and winter, mainly on large freshwater or alkaline lakes. Also on coastal bays, but seen less often on ocean than Horned Grebe.
A common grebe of freshwater lakes in the west. Gregarious at all seasons; nests in dense colonies, sometimes congregates in huge numbers on lakes during migration and winter. Probably as an adaptation to life in the arid west, it is flexible in distribution, quickly taking advantage of temporary or man-made new bodies of water.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, molting to nonbreeding plumage
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by feet. Also takes many insects and other items from surface of water.


Eggs

Usually 3-5, rarely 1-6. Whitish at first, becoming nest-stained brown. Incubation (by both sexes) about 21 days. Young: Leave nest after last egg hatches, are tended and fed by both parents. Adults may separate, each taking part of brood. Young may ride on parents' backs when small. May be independent by 21 days after hatching; age at first flight not well known. One brood per year, rarely 2.


Young

Leave nest after last egg hatches, are tended and fed by both parents. Adults may separate, each taking part of brood. Young may ride on parents' backs when small. May be independent by 21 days after hatching; age at first flight not well known. One brood per year, rarely 2.

Diet

Mostly insects and crustaceans. Feeds on insects (such as aquatic beetles, dragonfly larvae, flies, mayflies), crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, a few small fish. During autumn stopover on large alkaline lakes, may feed mainly on brine shrimp. Young are fed mainly on insects. Like other grebes, sometimes eats feathers.


Nesting

Courtship displays are complex. Male and female may swim side by side while turning heads and calling loudly; also face each other while rearing up out of water and turning heads from side to side; at climax of display, pair may rear up to vertical position and rush across surface of water side by side. Nest: Built by both sexes, a floating platform of weeds, anchored to standing vegetation in shallow water.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migration begins earlier in fall than in Horned Grebe. Generally migrates at night. Some birds migrate southeast from breeding range to winter near Gulf Coast.

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Migration

Migration begins earlier in fall than in Horned Grebe. Generally migrates at night. Some birds migrate southeast from breeding range to winter near Gulf Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
On breeding grounds, frog-like cheeping notes.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Grebes Duck-like Birds

Eared Grebe

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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