Black-necked grebe

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Black-necked grebe
Black-necked Grebe Schwarzhalstaucher.jpg
Podiceps nigricollis nigricollis, adult breeding plumage
Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), non-breeding plumage.jpg
Podiceps nigricollis californicus, adult non-breeding plumage
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Podicipediformes
Family: Podicipedidae
Genus: Podiceps
Species: P. nigricollis
Binomial name
Podiceps nigricollis
Brehm, 1831
Black-necked Grebe-map-location-map-en.svg
Range of P. nigricollis
     Breeding        Year-round        Winter

The black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), known in North America as the eared grebe, is a member of the grebe family of water birds. It is present in parts of Africa, Eurasia and North America.


There are three subspecies:[2]

  • P. n. nigricollis(Brehm, CL, 1831): nominate, is found from western Europe to western Asia (wintering to the south and west), in central and eastern Asia, and in eastern Africa
  • P. n. gurneyi(Roberts, 1919): is found in southern Africa
  • P. n. californicus(Heermann, 1854): is found from southwestern Canada through the western U.S. It winters as far south as Guatemala.

Both common names for this species refer to features visible when the bird is in its breeding plumage; in such plumage, it has an all-black neck and a spray of golden plumes on each side of its head. The name "eared grebe" was in use nearly a century before the name "black-necked grebe". The latter was first used in 1912 by Ernst Hartert, in an effort to bring the common name of the species in line with its scientific name.[3] The genus name of this species—Podiceps—comes from two Latin words: podicis, meaning "vent" or "anus" and pes meaning "foot".[4] This is a reference to the attachment point of the bird's legs—at the extreme back end of its body. The specific epithet nigricollis is Latin for "black-necked": niger means "black" and collis means "neck".[5]

The North American subspecies, P. n. californicus, is known as the eared grebe (or "eared diver").[6]


P. n. nigricollis, non-breeding plumage

The black-necked grebe is 28–34 centimetres (11–13 in) long. The adult is unmistakable in summer, with a black head and neck and yellow ear tufts. In winter, this small grebe is white with a poorly defined black cap, which distinguishes it from the crisper-looking Slavonian grebe (horned grebe in America).

In courtship the male gives a mellow poo-ee-chk call to the female.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe, Asia, Africa, northern South America and the southwest and western United States.[7] These birds migrate in winter, mostly to the Pacific Coast where they range south to El Salvador on a regular basis; vagrants may occur as far as Costa Rica.[8]


The black-necked grebe is essentially flightless for most of the year (9 to 10 months), and is one of the most inefficient fliers among avifauna. Generally, it avoids flying at all costs and reserves long-distance flight exclusively for migration. However, when migrating, it will travel as much as 6,000 km (3,700 mi) to reach prosperous areas that are exploited by few other species.[9]


Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden, Germany

This species builds its floating nest in the usually shallow water of a lake. The nest itself is anchored to the lake by plants.[10] It is built by both the male and female and made out of plant matter.[11] Most of it is submerged, with the bottom of the shallow cup usually being level with the water. Above the cup, there is a flat disc.[10] This grebe nests both in colonies[11] and by itself. When it does not nest by itself, it will often nest in mixed-species colonies.[10] This grebe can commonly be found to nest near black-headed gulls,[12] a common member in the aforementioned mixed-species colonies.[13]

In central Europe, the breeding season start in late May.[10]

The black-necked grebe is socially monogamous.[11]

This grebe lays a clutch of three to four chalky greenish or bluish eggs. The eggs, although they are not initially spotted, do get stained by the plant matter that the nest is built out of. They measure 45 by 30 millimetres (1.8 by 1.2 in) on average and are incubated by both parents for about 21 days. After the chicks hatch, the birds will desert their nest. After about 10 days after hatching, the parents can split the chicks up, with each parent taking care of about half of the brood. After this split, the chicks fledge in about three weeks.[11]


The black-necked grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its prey underwater, eating mostly fish as well as small crustaceans, aquatic insects and larvae. It prefers to escape danger by diving rather than flying, although it can easily rise from the water.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Podiceps nigricollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Ogilvie & Rose (2003), p. 69.
  3. ^ Ogilvie & Rose (2003), pp. 102–103.
  4. ^ Ogilvie & Rose (2003), p. 98.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 271, 341. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  6. ^ Herrera et al. (2006)
  7. ^ Herrera et al. (2006)
  8. ^ Herrera et al. (2006)
  9. ^ Jehl et al. (2003)
  10. ^ a b c d Bochenski, Zygmunt (1961). "Nesting biology of the black-necked grebe". Bird Study. 8 (1): 6–15. ISSN 0006-3657. doi:10.1080/00063656109475982. 
  11. ^ a b c d Hauber, Mark E. (1 August 2014). The Book of Eggs: A Life-Size Guide to the Eggs of Six Hundred of the World's Bird Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-226-05781-1. 
  12. ^ Martin, Brian; Smith, Judith. "A survey of breeding black-necked grebes in the UK: 1973–2004". British Birds. 100 (6): 368–378. 
  13. ^ Cite error: The named reference Bochenski2961 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).


  • Herrera, Néstor; Rivera, Roberto; Ibarra Portillo, Ricardo; Rodríguez, Wilfredo (2006). "Nuevos registros para la avifauna de El Salvador" [New records for the avifauna of El Salvador] (PDF). Boletín de la Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología (in Spanish and English). 16 (2): 1–19. 
  • Ogilvie, Malcolm; Rose, Chris (2003). Grebes of the World. Uxbridge, UK: Bruce Coleman. ISBN 1-872842-03-8. 
  • Jehl Jr., J.R.; Henry, A.E.; Ellis, H.I. (2003). Berthold, Peter; Gwinner, Eberhard; Sonnenschein, Edith, eds. Optimizing migration in a reluctant and inefficient flier: the eared grebe. Avian Migration. Springer. pp. 199–209. ISBN 978-3-540-43408-5. 

External links[edit]