Bird Database

Red-necked Grebe

(Podiceps grisegena)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance





Conservation Actions

None identifified

Red-necked Grebe

(Podiceps grisegena)

Horned and Red-necked Grebes are both species that nest in the west, from Alaska south and east to the northern Great Plains. Interestingly, fewer than a dozen Horned Grebes also breed on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, a thousand miles east of the rest of the population. In New Hampshire, both species are most common in winter along the coast, and like other coastal-wintering water birds they are sometimes seen on inland lakes and ponds during spring and fall migration. Only in spring do birders get to see their distinctive breeding plumages. In fall and winter both species are dark brown (Red-necked) or black (Horned) above and white below.

These grebes are strictly carnivorous, and feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish which are obtained by diving. Often a foraging bird will partially leap from the water before plunging headfirst back into it, and once underwater propels itself entirely with its feet. The legs are often held out to the sides of the body, and work either in unison (for faster diving) or alternating (for slower and more maneuverable diving). Unlike most other diving birds, the toes of grebes are lobed rather than webbed, a characteristic shared only with coots in New Hampshire.

The breeding displays of Horned and Red-necked Grebes are spectacular “dances” in which each member of the pair goes through a series of different positions culminating with both birds raising their bodies vertically above the water (the “penguin dance”). Sometimes this display is followed by the “weed display:” both birds dive and return with aquatic vegetation in their bills, face each other in the penguin dance position, and then lower themselves back to the water while dropping the weeds. Although these displays begin on the winter grounds and continue through spring migration they are rarely seen in New Hampshire.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Red-necked Grebe
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count