Photo: Laure Neish/Vireo

Red-necked Grebe

Podiceps grisegena

A large grebe of northern marshes and coasts. Not especially wary when not molested by humans; nests on park lakes in some cities, such as Anchorage, Alaska. Colorful, noisy, and conspicuous on its nesting territory, it seems a different bird in winter, when it is gray and silent, a solitary bird of offshore waters. Rather clumsy in takeoff, and not often seen flying except in migration.
Conservation status Population status not well known, but may have declined in recent decades. Vulnerable to pollution in coastal wintering areas.
Family Grebes
Habitat Lakes, ponds; in winter, salt water. Summer: on freshwater lakes or large ponds having some marsh vegetation, surrounded by prairie, northern forest, or sometimes tundra. Winter: mostly on ocean, on protected bays but also miles offshore at times; also a few on some large lakes.
A large grebe of northern marshes and coasts. Not especially wary when not molested by humans; nests on park lakes in some cities, such as Anchorage, Alaska. Colorful, noisy, and conspicuous on its nesting territory, it seems a different bird in winter, when it is gray and silent, a solitary bird of offshore waters. Rather clumsy in takeoff, and not often seen flying except in migration.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages while swimming underwater, or while swimming on surface with head submerged. Also takes items (such as insects) from on or above water's surface, or from waterside plants.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 2-6. Bluish-white or very pale buff, becoming nest-stained brown. Both sexes incubate, 20-23 days. Young: Are able to swim shortly after hatching; are fed by both parents, and may ride on parents' backs. Age at first flight not well known, may be 10 weeks in some cases. Usually 1 brood per year, rarely 2.


Young

Are able to swim shortly after hatching; are fed by both parents, and may ride on parents' backs. Age at first flight not well known, may be 10 weeks in some cases. Usually 1 brood per year, rarely 2.

Diet

Mostly insects and fish. Diet varies with season. May feed mainly on small fish in winter on coastal waters; in summer on marshes and ponds, feeds mainly on insects. Also eats crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, nereid worms, very small amounts of plant matter. Like other grebes, may eat feathers.


Nesting

Courtship displays complex, with loud calls, raising of crest. Members of pair may face each other and rise partly out of water, chest to chest; sit close together while turning heads from side to side; bring up bits of weed from underwater and perform ritual dance while holding weeds. Nest: Site is in shallow water among marsh vegetation. Nest (built by both sexes) is a floating mass of plant material, with a definite depression at the top, anchored to standing plants.

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

Migration

Migration over land seems to be mostly at night, although migrates off coastlines during day. Apparently some normally winter on Great Lakes; during extremely harsh winters, these may be driven out when lakes freeze over.

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Migration

Migration over land seems to be mostly at night, although migrates off coastlines during day. Apparently some normally winter on Great Lakes; during extremely harsh winters, these may be driven out when lakes freeze over.

  • 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 squeaks, growls, and wailing calls.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Red-necked 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 Red-necked 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.

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