Horned grebe

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Horned grebe
Horned grebe (2) - (Podiceps auritus).JPG
Horned grebe in breeding plumage. Photographed in Edmonton, Alberta in July 2013
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Podicipediformes
Family: Podicipedidae
Genus: Podiceps
Species: P. auritus
Binomial name
Podiceps auritus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Slavonian Grebe-location-map-en.svg
     Breeding range        Winter range

Colymbus auritus

The horned grebe (Podiceps auritus) or Slavonian grebe is a member of the grebe family of water birds. The scientific name comes from Latin. Podiceps is from podicis, "vent" and pes, "foot", and is a reference to the placement of a grebe's legs towards the rear of its body. The species name, auritus means "eared", from auris, "ear".[2] It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. P. auritus is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


The horned grebe is a small grebe at 31–38 cm (12–15 in) long with a 46–55 cm (18–22 in) wingspan. Unmistakable in summer, the plumage of both male and female includes a black head with brown puffy earlike tufts along the sides of its face. It shows a deep red neck, scarlet eyes, and a small, straight black bill tipped with white. It rides high in the water.



Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

Horned grebes breed in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe and Asia. It also breeds in remote inland parts of the United States and much of Canada. Most birds migrate in winter to the coast. During this time, this small grebe is mainly white with a sharply defined black cap. During breeding, the male's call is heard as an odd, striking series of loud croaks and chattering notes followed by prolonged shrieks.

Like all grebes, it builds a nest on the water's edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually two eggs are laid, and the striped young are sometimes carried on the adult's back.

In culture[edit]

"The Sclavonian Grebe" in Thomas Bewick's A History of British Birds, Volume 2 "Water Birds". 1847 edition.
Nonbreeding plumage

Folk names of this bird include devil-diver, hell-diver, pink-eyed diver, and water witch. Its name is often abbreviated by British birders to "Slav grebe" or simply "Slav".

In the lore of the Blackfeet, the trickster Old Man tricked several ducks into closing their eyes and dancing while he killed them one by one. However, the smallest duck looked, saw Old Man, and alerted the other ducks. This "duck" was the horned grebe, who became the first to notice trouble.[3]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2015). "Podiceps auritus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 62, 341. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  3. ^ Weidensaul, Scott (2007). Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding. New York: Harcourt, Inc. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-15-101247-3. 

External links[edit]