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Species Guide
A photo of a Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Black-necked Grebe

Black-necked Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

The Black-necked Grebe, also known as the Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), is a striking member of the grebe family. It is characterized by its distinctive breeding plumage, which includes a black to blackish-brown head, neck, and breast, and ochre-colored feathers that fan out behind the eyes over the ear coverts. The flanks are a rich tawny rufous to maroon-chestnut, while the abdomen remains white. In non-breeding plumage, the bird sports greyish-black upper parts and a white or whitish body. Juveniles have a browner hue in their darker areas.

Identification Tips

To identify the Black-necked Grebe, look for the red eye with a narrow yellow ring, the blackish line extending from the gape to the eye, and the thin, upturned black bill. The subspecies californicus typically has a longer bill, while P. n. gurneyi is smaller with a greyer head and lacks non-breeding plumage.


This species favors vegetated freshwater lakes for breeding and migrates to saline lakes and coastal estuaries post-breeding.


The Black-necked Grebe has a wide distribution, breeding across parts of Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas. It winters in locations such as the southwestern Palearctic, eastern parts of Africa and Asia, southern Africa, and as far south as Guatemala in the Americas.


The Black-necked Grebe is a reluctant and inefficient flier, often avoiding flight except during migration. It can travel up to 6,000 kilometers during migration and becomes flightless for two months during the moulting period.

Song & Calls

During the breeding season, the Black-necked Grebe emits a high-pitched "ooeek" call that ascends in pitch, used for both territorial and courtship purposes. Outside of breeding, it is generally silent.


Breeding occurs in various locations depending on the subspecies, with a floating cup nest built on open lakes. The species is socially monogamous and may lay one or sometimes two clutches of three to four eggs, with brood parasitism being common.

Similar Species

The Black-necked Grebe can be confused with other grebe species, but its distinctive breeding plumage and vocalizations help differentiate it.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of insects, crustaceans, molluscs, tadpoles, small frogs, and fish. It employs multiple foraging techniques, including diving, foliage gleaning, and capturing flying insects.

Conservation status

The IUCN classifies the Black-necked Grebe as Least Concern, with an estimated population of 3.9–4.2 million individuals. Despite potential threats like oil spills and disease outbreaks, these are not considered significant risks to the overall population.

Black-necked Grebe Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Black-necked Grebe Fun Facts

Did you know?
Black-necked Grebes are flightless for nine to ten months a year; the longest flightless period of any bird capable of flight.

Black-necked Grebes on Birda


More Grebes

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

Clark's Grebe

Aechmophorus clarkii
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