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 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

Red-necked 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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