Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus

A small diver found mostly on northern marshes in summer, coastal bays in winter. Also widespread in Eurasia, where it is called Slavonian Grebe. Similar to Eared Grebe, but much less gregarious, it seldom nests in colonies and seldom gathers in large flocks at other seasons. Like other grebes, it must patter across surface of water to become airborne; may become trapped when waters freeze quickly overnight.
Conservation status Thought to have declined in recent decades, although solid data are mostly lacking.
Family Grebes
Habitat Lakes, ponds; coastal waters. Summers on lakes having both open water and marsh vegetation, surrounded by northern forest, prairie, sometimes out onto southern edges of tundra. Winters mainly on ocean, including protected bays and exposed shores. Also some in winter on large lakes and reservoirs, more commonly so in recent years.
A small diver found mostly on northern marshes in summer, coastal bays in winter. Also widespread in Eurasia, where it is called Slavonian Grebe. Similar to Eared Grebe, but much less gregarious, it seldom nests in colonies and seldom gathers in large flocks at other seasons. Like other grebes, it must patter across surface of water to become airborne; may become trapped when waters freeze quickly overnight.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled by feet. Also takes items from on or above water's surface. Usually solitary in feeding, but flocks may rarely forage cooperatively; has been seen foraging in association with Surf Scoters.


Eggs

4-6, sometimes 3-7. Whitish to very pale green or buff, becoming nest-stained. Both sexes incubate, 22-25 days. Young: Can swim shortly after hatching; fed by both parents, and often ride on parents' backs. Age at first flight 55-60 days. One brood per year, sometimes 2; young from first brood may help in feeding of second.


Young

Can swim shortly after hatching; fed by both parents, and often ride on parents' backs. Age at first flight 55-60 days. One brood per year, sometimes 2; young from first brood may help in feeding of second.

Diet

Mostly insects, crustaceans, fish. Diet varies with habitat and season. In summer may eat mainly insects and crustaceans, also some fish, tadpoles, leeches, salamanders, small amounts of plant material. May eat mostly fish in winter, also crustaceans, mollusks, insects. Like other grebes, also swallows many feathers.


Nesting

Courtship displays involve posturing by both members of pair; both rise to vertical position on water with head feathers fully raised, turning heads rapidly; both dive and come up with bits of weed in bills, then rush across surface of water side by side carrying weeds. Nest: Site is in shallow water, usually among marsh growth. Nest (built by both sexes) a floating heap of wet plant material (with depression in middle for eggs), usually anchored to standing vegetation.

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

Migration

Usually migrates singly. May migrate by day along coast, usually at night over land. A change in overall winter range detected in recent years, with more and more wintering on man-made reservoirs in the southeastern states.

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Migration

Usually migrates singly. May migrate by day along coast, usually at night over land. A change in overall winter range detected in recent years, with more and more wintering on man-made reservoirs in the southeastern states.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Usually silent. On breeding grounds a variety of croaks, shrieks, and chatters.
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

Horned 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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