Eared Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis
Range Map

The International Ornithological Committee (IOC) calls this bird the “Black-Necked Grebe”, but in North America, it is known as the “Eared Grebe”. They breed in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe, Asia, Africa, the western United States and southwestern Canada. In winter, they often migrate to super saline water bodies such as Mono Lake in California, and the Great Salt Lake in Utah. There they feast on the brine flies and brine shrimp that thrive in these locations.

Science recognises three forms of this species:

  • P. n. nigricollis breeds in Europe and Asia. They spend winters from southern Europe east through southwestern Asia, eastern China and Japan.
  • P. n. gurneyi lives in southern Africa.
  • P. n. californicus breeds in North America. There are small pockets of habitat in Colorado, California, and southern Mexico where these birds remain year-round, but some migrate south for the winter as far as southern Mexico and northern Central America.

Even in their winter garb, the ruby-red eyes of Eared Grebes are captivating to observe. But when summer comes, and they don their breeding finery, they are a sight to behold. Most of my meetings have been in California, but I’ve also found them in Nevada, southern Oregon and even as far north as Grand Prairie and Lake Kimiwan in Alberta (Canada).

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