The Horned Grebe is a small grebe with a straight bill, thick neck, and squarish head. In breeding plumage, Horned Grebes have rufous necks and bellies, gray backs, and black heads with a solid yellow patch from each eye to the back of the head. Juveniles are gray-buff, with the lower half of the face white. Non-breeding adults are gray-black with white on the lower half of the face and neck.
Less gregarious than the similar Black-necked Grebe, Horned Grebes are intensely territorial on their nesting grounds. Like other grebes, Horned Grebes engage in elaborate courtship displays.
In winter Horned Grebes are usually found on salt water in coastal bays and exposed shores, and far less commonly on fresh water. During the nesting season they inhabit lakes with a mix of open water and wetland vegetation
This bird has a wide distribution in the boreal regions of Eurasia and North America. Within the European Union it is known as a breeding species only from Scotland, where its population amounts 60 breeding pairs. The total northern European population is estimated at 6000-9000 breeding pairs and winters mainly along the coasts of the North Sea and on the central European lakes. A few birds reach the Mediterranean coasts. Despite important local fluctuations, the total population of this species seems quite stable
In summer Horned Grebes feed mostly on insects and crustaceans, which they catch under water. In winter they eat fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and some insects.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 160,000-1,200,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Together males and females build a nest in marsh vegetation. The nest is a floating pile of wet plant material, anchored to emergent vegetation. The female lays four to five eggs, and both parents help incubate the eggs for 22 to 25 days. Both parents feed the young, which can swim shortly after hatching and often ride on the parents’ backs. The young can fly at 55 to 60 days.
Migratory. Small breeding waters deserted for winter, birds moving mainly to inshore seas, but some to large lakes. On western edge of breeding range may be dispersive, moving only to nearest coasts. Autumn movements begin late August, peak October-November. Main departures from winter quarters March-April; reach Iceland, south Sweden and south Finland in April, but breeding waters further east may not be reoccupied until late May, dependent on thaw. Scottish lochs occupied from March or early April to September.
Isolated populations breeding Iceland, Faeroes (occasionally), Scotland and Norway appear to winter around Scotland, Atlantic coast Ireland, and on west coast Norway.
Birds breeding Sweden eastwards apparently winter further south and east: west Baltic, and west coast Denmark to southern North Sea and Brittany; small numbers across west-central Europe (notably lakes in France and Switzerland) to Mediterranean and Adriatic; also on Black, Caspian and Aral Seas.
- spanwidth min.: 52 cm
- spanwidth max.: 62 cm
- size min.: 31 cm
- size max.: 38 cm
- incubation min.: 22 days
- incubation max.: 25 days
- fledging min.: 44 days
- fledging max.: 60 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 3
- eggs max.: 7
- Conservation Status
- Podiceps auritus cornutus
- Canada, n USA
- Podiceps auritus auritus
- n Eurasia
- Podiceps auritus
- NA, EU widespread