Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus
Range Map

Also known as the “Slavonian Grebe”, Horned Grebes breed in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe and Asia. They also breed in remote inland areas of the United States and much of Canada. In winter, they move to coastal areas of the continents where they summer. In North America, after breeding inland, we can find them on the Pacific Coast in the west, and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and southeastern USA in the east.

Today’s taxonomists recognise two subspecies of Horned Grebe:

  • P. a. cornutus breeds in central Alaska to central Canada and the northern tier of the USA, to the Great Lakes. They spend winters from the Aleutian Islands and along the Pacific coast to California and from the Canadian Maritime Provinces south to Texas.
  • P. a. auritus breeds in the middle latitudes of Eurasia, from Iceland to Kamchatka. They spend winters from the North Sea to the Caspian and off the Japanese and Chinese coasts.

I met my first Horned Grebe in Fairbanks (Alaska) in 2005. Later, I enjoyed watching them fish in the shallow waters of south San Diego Bay near my home base in California. More recently, I met these grebes in their winter plumage on the Pacifi8c Coast while heading north on my Canadian expedition in 2022, and later on that same trip, on their breeding grounds in northern Canada. These birds undergo quite a dramatic transformation between summer and winter. The bold, rich coloring and the horns of summer fade into blacks, whites and grays in winter, but they never lose those bright ruby red eyes.

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