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
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.
Learn more about these drawings.

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.

Download Our Bird Guide App

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.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Horned 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 Horned 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.

Explore Similar Birds