Living Bird Magazine
Red-necked GrebePodiceps grisegena
- ORDER: Podicipediformes
- FAMILY: Podicipedidae
Red-necked Grebes are boldly plumaged waterbirds with pale cheeks and a daggerlike yellow bill that contrasts with a sharp black crown often likened to a toreador’s cap (sometimes raised into a short crest). In breeding plumage, the neck is a rich brick red. The species breeds on northerly lakes and winters mainly along ocean coastlines, usually singly but sometimes in small groups. During spring migration, flocks may form on large lakes, and pairs begin their boisterous courtship displays well before reaching breeding lakes farther north.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In winter, Red-necked Grebes frequent northerly ocean coasts, and they sometimes feed well away from shore, so using a spotting scope (or joining a bird walk where the leader has one) can be useful for seeing them well. In midwinter, if the Great Lakes freeze over completely, large numbers often suddenly appear in unusual locations to the southeast of the lakes, along with Horned Grebes (which are smaller) and diving ducks. During migration (early spring) and the breeding season, watch for them on larger lakes in Canada and the northern states.
- Somormujo Cuellirrojo (Spanish)
- Grèbe jougris (French)
- Cool Facts
- Red-necked Grebes winter mostly in northern climes, but wandering birds have reached Bermuda and the Hawaiian Islands.
- In 1989, birders organized a study of autumn migration at Whitefish Point, Michigan, on Lake Superior. They were surprised to discover that a large migration of Red-necked Grebes passed by there during the daytime. Most scientists had assumed that this species migrated at night like many other grebe species. Whitefish Point Bird Observatory has documented over 21,000 Red-necked Grebes in a single season at their lake watch.
- Like other grebes, the Red-necked Grebe ingests large quantities of its own feathers. The stomach retains two distinct masses (balls) of feathers, and their function is unknown. One hypothesis suggests that the feathers help protect the lower digestive tract from bones and other hard, indigestible material. The Red-necked Grebe also feeds its feathers to its young.
- The Red-necked Grebe migrates over land strictly at night. It sometimes migrates over water or along coasts by day, in large flocks.
- The oldest recorded Red-necked Grebe was at least 11 years old when it was found in Minnesota, the same state where it had been banded.