• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Eared Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis ORDER: PODICIPEDIFORMES FAMILY: PODICIPEDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The most abundant grebe in the world, the Eared Grebe breeds in shallow wetlands in western North America. It occurs in greatest numbers on Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake in fall, where it doubles its weight in preparation for a nonstop flight to its wintering grounds in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

eBird, submit your observations
Jane Kim Mural

Appearance

Ducklike
Ducklike
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Small waterbird.
  • Thin, dark bill, often appearing tilted slightly upward.
  • Red eyes.
  • In summer, black with golden ear tufts.
  • In winter, black, white, and gray, with white ear patch.

Immature Description

Similar to winter adult, but more brownish on back and neck.

Range Map Help

Eared Grebe Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding adult

    Eared Grebe

    Breeding adult
    • Small, stocky waterbird with thin, pointy black bill
    • Distinctive breeding plumage: golden plumes on face and bright orange-red eye
    • Peaked crown
    • Mostly black with chestnut-brown flanks
    • © Bob Gunderson, Mountain View, California, April 2011
  • Nonbreeding adult

    Eared Grebe

    Nonbreeding adult
    • Small, stocky waterbird with peaked crown
    • Thin, pointy gray/black bill
    • Mostly dark gray with white on face, nape, and flanks
    • Rump/tail area often appear inflated and "fluffy"
    • © Cameron Rognan, Fort Irwin, California, December 2007
  • Breeding adult

    Eared Grebe

    Breeding adult
    • Small, compact, mostly dark waterbird with peaked crown
    • Neck appears more stretched out/elongated on alert birds
    • Distinctive yellow plumes on face of breeding adults
    • Black head, neck, and back with chestnut-brown flanks
    • © Kurt Kirchmeier, Saskatchewan, Canada, July 2012
  • Nonbreeding adult

    Eared Grebe

    Nonbreeding adult
    • Small, plump waterbird
    • Mostly dusky face and neck with contrasting red eye
    • Thin, chisel-like, gray/black bill
    • White flanks often appear "fluffy"
    • © Stephen Ramirez, Texas, December 2009

Similar Species

  • Male Breeding

    Horned Grebe

    Male Breeding
    • Distinctive in breeding plumage: bushy golden "horns" raise up from behind eye
    • Large head appears "inflated" but with no peaked crown
    • Paler gray back shows scaled pattern
    • Rich rufous/chestnut on neck
    • © Glenn Bartley, Saskatchewan, Canada, May 2009
  • Nonbreeding adult

    Horned Grebe

    Nonbreeding adult
    • Similar to nonbreeding Eared Grebe
    • Bright white face and neck with little duskiness
    • Rear end rides lower in water with less of a "fluffy" appearance
    • Thicker neck
    • © Gary Witt, Forest Grove, Oregon, March 2012

Similar Species

  • Horned Grebe appears quite similar, especially in nonbreeding plumage, but shows clear border between black of crown and white of lower face rather than a more gradual transition between black and white. Front of neck is white, not gray. Rear end slopes to water instead of sticking up like that of Eared Grebe.