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Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus ORDER: PODICIPEDIFORMES FAMILY: PODICIPEDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Familiar to most North American birders in its black-and-white winter plumage, the Horned Grebe is more striking in its red-and-black breeding feathers. Its "horns" are yellowish patches of feathers behind its eyes that it can raise and lower at will.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
12.2–15 in
31–38 cm
Wingspan
21.7–25.2 in
55–64 cm
Weight
10.6–20.1 oz
300–570 g
Other Names
  • Slavonian Grebe
  • Grèbe cornu, Grèbe esclavon (French)
  • Zambullidor cornudo, Zampullin cuellirrojo, Zampullin orejudo, Noveleta cuellirroja (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Like most grebes, the small chicks of the Horned Grebe frequently ride on the backs of their swimming parents. The young ride between the wings on the parent's back, and may even go underwater with them during dives.
  • The Horned Grebe regularly eats some of its own feathers, enough that its stomach usually contains a matted plug of them. This plug may function as a filter or may hold fish bones in the stomach until they can be digested. The parents even feed feathers to their chicks to get the plug started early.
  • A sleeping or resting Horned Grebe puts its neck on its back with its head off to one side and facing forward. It keeps one foot tucked up under a wing and uses the other one to maneuver in the water. Having one foot up under a wing makes it float with one "high" side and one "low" side.

Habitat


Lake/Pond

Breeds on small to moderate-sized, shallow freshwater ponds and marshes. Winters along coasts and on large bodies of water.

Food


Insects

Aquatic insects, fish, crustaceans, and other small aquatic animals.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–8 eggs
Egg Description
White to brownish or bluish green.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and active; can swim and dive within one day, but usually stay on nest platform.
Nest Description

An open bowl in a platform of floating vegetation or on a rock.

Nest Placement

Floating

Behavior


Surface Dive

Dives underwater for food, in open water and among aquatic vegetation. Picks insects off water surface.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Common, but breeding range contracting and populations may be declining.

Credits

  • Stedman, S. J. 2000. Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). In The Birds of North America, No. 505 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Horned Grebe Range Map
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