Common Name
EARED GREBE

Scientific Name
PODICEPS NIGRICOLLIS

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Photo by Nicky Davis
Photo Copyright Nicky Davis

The eared grebe, Podiceps nigricollis, is an aquatic bird that breeds in western and central North America, as well as in some areas of South America, Eurasia, and Africa. The species is highly social and forms breeding colonies made up of thousands of birds. During the breeding season, it favors shallow lakes and ponds with large macroinvertebrate communities. In the western United States, locations of breeding colonies vary from year to year; after each breeding season, however, most eared grebes move to the highly saline environments of either Mono Lake in California or the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where they feast on brine shrimp and alkali flies. During the winter, most of the population moves to islands in the Gulf of California. Others may winter inland near large open bodies of water in the western United States and Mexico. The eared grebe is the most common grebe in Utah, and it regularly breeds throughout the state.

Eared grebes dive for a variety of aquatic invertebrates, which they glean off underwater rocks and vegetation. Similar to other grebes, they eat their own feathers, presumably to protect the stomach from sharp food items. Pairs form shortly after arriving at the breeding grounds. Together they choose the nesting site and then build a floating platform nest among tall vegetation. Three eggs are incubated, and both parents share nest sitting duties for about three weeks. After hatching, the young are continuously carried on the back of a parent for the first week. Chicks are fed by the noncarrying parent. After ten days, the young are divided and each parent takes half. The parents part ways, and they apparently maintain no further contact with each other during that season. The young are independent at about twenty days.

Sources:

  • Cullen, S. A., J. R. Jehl Jr., and G. L. Nuechterlein. 1999. Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis). Birds of North America 433.

  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • National Geographic Society. 1996. Field guide to the birds of North America, 2nd edition. The National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.

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