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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.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
11.8–13.8 in
30–35 cm
Wingspan
20.5–21.7 in
52–55 cm
Weight
7.1–25.9 oz
200–735 g
Other Names
  • Black-necked Grebe (British English)
  • Grèbe à cou noir (French)
  • Zambullidor orejudo (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • At its fall staging areas, the Eared Grebe more than doubles its weight. The pectoral (chest) muscles shrink to the point of flightlessness, the digestive organs grow significantly, and great fat deposits accumulate. Then before departure for migration, the digestive organs shrink back to about one-fourth their peak size and the heart and pectoral muscles grow quickly.
  • A cycle similar to that of the fall staging areas occurs three to six times each year for the Eared Grebe. For perhaps nine to ten months each year the species is flightless; this is the longest flightless period of any bird in the world capable of flight at all.
  • The Eared Grebe migrates only at night. Because of the length of its fall staging, its southward fall migration is the latest of any bird species in North America.
  • On cold, sunny mornings, the Eared Grebe, like some other grebe species, sunbathes by facing away from the sun and raising its rump, exposing dark underlying skin to light. This behavior may make the bird appear to have a distinctive "high-stern" profile.

Habitat


Lake/Pond

Breeds in shallow lakes and ponds. In migration and in winter prefers salt water. Occurs in great numbers in super salty habitats, where fish are absent.

Food


Insects

Aquatic invertebrates, especially brine shrimp and brine flies.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–8 eggs
Egg Description
Light blue, changing to whitish.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and capable of climbing, swimming, and eating within an hour after hatching.
Nest Description

An open bowl of aquatic plants, attached to reeds or other emergent vegetation.

Nest Placement

Floating

Behavior


Surface Dive

Courtship includes various elaborate mutual displays by mates, including rising out of water with neck extended, and swimming upright in parallel.Feeds at surface or by diving to the bottom. Researchers believe that the Eared Grebe uses its large, fleshy tongue much as baleen whales do, crushing prey against the palate and extruding water.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Abundant. May be increasing in some areas, but frequent mass deaths at the Salton Sea in California, a major staging and wintering area for the species, pose concern.

Credits

  • Cullen, S. A., J. R. Jehl, Jr, and G. L. Nuechterlein. 1999. Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis). In The Birds of North America, No. 433 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Eared Grebe Range Map
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