Birda Logo
Species Guide
A photo of a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus

The Horned Grebe, known scientifically as Podiceps auritus, is a small waterbird with a striking appearance. During the breeding season, it dons a red-and-black plumage and is notable for its "horns" – tufts of yellowish feathers behind its eyes that can be raised and lowered. Measuring 31–38 cm in length, with a wingspan of 55–74 cm and weighing 300–570 g, it has a moderately long neck and a flat forehead. The beak is straight, pointed, and tipped with white.

Identification Tips

In breeding plumage, the Horned Grebe exhibits black fan-shaped cheek feathers and chestnut brown on the neck, flanks, lores, and upper-chest, with a black crown and back. The belly is a dull white. In non-breeding plumage, the bird is predominantly black and white, with a less distinct line separating the cheeks and crown. Juveniles resemble non-breeding adults but are duller with a brown-tinged back and a paler beak.


Horned Grebes favor shallow freshwater ponds, marshes, and lake edges with emergent vegetation such as sedges, rushes, and cattails. These environments provide nesting material, anchorage, and protection for their young.


The species is found across northern Europe and Asia, as well as North America. The Eurasian subspecies, P. a. auritus, breeds from Greenland to the Russian Far East, while the North American subspecies, P. a. cornutus, is found across Canada and parts of the United States.


Horned Grebes are known for their elaborate mating rituals, including several pair bonding ceremonies. They are aggressive in defending their nests and are generally solitary or found in small groups.

Song & Calls

The Horned Grebe's vocal repertoire includes a loud, nasally "aaarrh" call that descends in pitch and ends in a trill. They are particularly vocal during breeding and territory defense, with a subdued song during migration and wintering.


Monogamous pairs engage in complex displays before copulation, which occurs on a nest built from plant matter. They lay a single clutch of three to eight eggs, with both parents sharing incubation duties for 22 to 25 days. Chicks can swim and dive within days of hatching and often ride on their parents' backs for warmth.

Similar Species

The Horned Grebe can be confused with the Black-necked Grebe, which has a steeper forehead, a more slender bill, and a fluffier rump.

Diet and Feeding

These grebes dive to feed on aquatic arthropods, fish, and crustaceans, and have a unique adaptation of swallowing their own feathers to aid in digesting fish bones.

Conservation Status

The Horned Grebe is currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with a global population decline of 30% over the last three decades. Threats include human disturbance, habitat loss, and competition for food due to introduced fish species. Conservation efforts are underway to address these challenges.

App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Horned Grebe Fun Facts

Did you know?
Horned Grebes will ride on their parents backs and have even been observed diving underwaters on the back of their parent.

Horned Grebes on Birda


More Grebes

A photo of a Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)

Clark's Grebe

Aechmophorus clarkii
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Simply fantastic
I love this app, it puts so much fun into recording the birds I’ve seen and heard while I’m out and about. The interface is user-friendly and suitable for all ages. It’s great to collect badges and to review my “lists”.
Such a great app!
I didn’t think I could enjoy birding more but this app makes it so much better. Some great features and a really great way to share your sightings with your friends or fellow birders nearby or around the world! ❤️
Recommend for any bird watcher
Very wholesome app: I joined this app with a new interest in watching birds to help me find out what I was spotting. The community is very active in helping identify birds which is great and everyone is very kind so it’s just a nice wholesome community. I would definitely recommend this for any bird spotter 😃
Makes you want to spot birds more
I think this app is fun. It makes you want to spot birds more so I guess in a way it encourages you to get out and about instead of sitting in front of the TV.
Paul F
Very good database
Highly recommend. It great that this app shows you male Vs female variations when posting. Very good database I'm really impressed.
Amylia S
Best app for any birding person!
I love this app!! I am so addicted to it when I saw it had 3 star review I was so sad! The app is awesome!! The best app for any birding person! ❤️
Wonderful App
Birda is my go to app for keeping records of my bird sightings and sessions. It has fantastic information which is great at aiding identification. With all the updates that are coming in the new year, this app is something special.
Really great app
It’s easy to use and it’s fun to log the birds you notice on a walk or just in your garden. There’s a option to record the birds you see in a session which is really nice. Good excuse to stop for a while and just watch birds. I am also enjoying the information part where you can find out fact about birds from all over the world.
Great app for beginner twitchers
I’ve had a passion of photographing birds for a long time now but have only just gotten into proper birdwatching, and this app is brilliant for those just getting started. There is a great sense of community among users and the app is very easy to use and professional. Awesome app altogether
A Friendly Place
I love using the bird app, I have a pretty good knowledge of birds. But I do have some gaps in it, so it’s nice to have a safe space to check on a sighting to confirm the species. It’s really enjoyable and I love the badges you can collect. It’s like a real life Pokémon go.
As featured in
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Giving back
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.