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.
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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 Will Reshape the Range of the Eared Grebe

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Eared Grebe

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

Saline Lakes

Saline Lakes

Saline lakes and their associated wetlands throughout Intermountain West create a network of critical habitat that millions of birds depend on for breeding, resting and feeding during migration, and wintering.

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Salton Sea

Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is one of the most important places for birds in North America and is in danger of losing its ecological value. If it does, we will lose a vital part of the Pacific Flyway.

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