|Conservation status||Thought to have declined in recent decades, although solid data are mostly lacking.|
|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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent. On breeding grounds a variety of croaks, shrieks, and chatters.
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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.