Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus

Image of two horned grebe's, Podiceps auritus, in the water.
Image by Denali National Park and Preserve on Flickr, Public Domain

Physical: The Horned Grebe is a striking water bird, particularly during the breeding season. During this time, males and females alike sport a rich rusty-red neck, blackish cheeks, and a unique patch of golden-yellow feathers that fan out from behind the eyes, reminiscent of “horns.” Outside of breeding season, they adopt a more muted appearance with a white face, dark crown, and grayish body. They typically measure about 12 to 15 inches in length and have a wingspan of approximately 22 inches.

Habitat: Horned Grebes favor freshwater habitats such as ponds, marshes, and lakes during the breeding season. During winter, they transition to saltwater coastal areas, bays, and estuaries, though they may occasionally be seen on freshwater lakes.

Feeding: These agile divers primarily feast on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish. Their diet varies depending on their current habitat – freshwater brings a variety of insects and larvae, while saltwater environments offer up small fish and marine invertebrates.

Breeding: Come breeding season, Horned Grebes construct floating nests anchored to submerged vegetation in the shallow regions of lakes and ponds. The female lays a clutch of 3-8 eggs. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, and post-hatching, the chicks often ride on the backs of their parents, nestled under their wings for warmth and protection.

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