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Eared Grebe


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.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
11.8–13.8 in
30–35 cm
20.5–21.7 in
52–55 cm
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.
  • The oldest recorded Eared Grebe was at least 6 years, 9 months old when it was found in California in 1992, the same state where it had been banded.



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.



Aquatic invertebrates, especially brine shrimp and brine flies.


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



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.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Eared Grebe are abundant and widespread, and populations remained stable between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 3.5-4.1 million birds (counted in the fall), and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Eared Grebe rate a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and the species is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. Though these grebes appear to be increasing in some places, frequent mass deaths at the Salton Sea in California, a major staging and wintering area for the species, pose concern.


Range Map Help

Eared Grebe Range Map
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