Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

Black-necked Grebe

[order] PODICIPEDIFORMES | [family] Podicipedidae | [latin] Podiceps nigricollis | [UK] Black-necked Grebe | [FR] Grebe a cou noir | [DE] Schwarzhals-Taucher | [ES] Zampullin Cuellinegro | [NL] Geoorde Fuut


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Podiceps nigricollis EU, AF, NA, MA widespread
Podiceps nigricollis californicus North America
Podiceps nigricollis gurneyi Africa south of the Sahara
Podiceps nigricollis nigricollis Eurasia

Physical charateristics

Thie Black-necked grebe has a slightly upturned bill and a peak over the eye. In the breeding season, its upperparts are dark, and its underparts are rufous. The head and neck are black with a yellow spray of feathers radiating across the cheek. Adults in non-breeding plumage are dark above, with a light, gray-white belly and dirty gray neck. The top half of the head is dark, the bottom half light, with a white crescent at the ear. Juvenile plumage is buff-gray with a white chin.
Black-necked Grebes are typically gregarious in nesting season, living in colonies that sometimes number thousands of individuals. Like other grebes, they participate in elaborate courtship displays. They experience vast fluctuations in weight and muscle mass throughout the year, going through a number of flightless periods. In fact, it is possible that Black-necked Grebes spend a total of as much as ten months of the year unable to fly.

Listen to the sound of Black-necked Grebe

[audio: Grebe.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 56 cm wingspan max.: 60 cm
size min.: 28 cm size max.: 34 cm
incubation min.: 20 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia, Africa, North America, Middle America : widespread


Black-necked Grebes breed in large freshwater lakes and reservoirs in eastern Washington in areas with open water and emergent vegetation. They are quick to take advantage of temporary or man-made bodies of water. During migration and throughout the winter, they are often found in high-saline lakes and certain coastal bays. Most of the population moves in winter to a few large hypersaline lakes in the West and Southwest (chiefly the Great Salt Lake and Mono Lake) to exploit the abundant brine shrimp and alkali flies that thrive in those waters.


Black-necked Grebes nest in dense colonies. Both parents help build the well-concealed nest, which is a floating platform of weeds anchored to emergent vegetation in shallow water. Both male and female birds incubate the three to four eggs for about 21 days. As soon as all the young have hatched, the family leaves the nest. Both adults feed and tend the young, sometimes splitting the workload about 10 days post-hatching, with each parent taking half of the brood. The young are generally independent after 21 days.

Feeding habits

Insects and crustaceans make up the majority of the diet. When Black-necked Grebes are on hypersaline lakes, brine shrimp are an important food source for them.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Podiceps nigricollis is a widespread but patchily distributed breeder across much of Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (<96,000 pairs), but underwent a large increase between 1970-1990. Although there were declines in a number of countries-most notably Romania-during 1990-2000, key populations in Russia and Ukraine were stable, and the species declined only slightly overall.
The Black-necked Grebe is currently the most abundant species of grebe in North America and the world. The population is generally stable, although it is vulnerable because such a high percentage of the birds rely on so few lakes. Protection of breeding grounds is equally important. Since colony locations change frequently, protection of wetlands that currently have a breeding colony isn’t enough; protection must extend to all suitable habitat, no matter whether such habitat currently has a nesting colony.
Black-necked Grebe status Least Concern


Migratory and dispersive. Winters on lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters; compared with Slavonian Grebe, much smaller proportion on salt water. Autumn movements protracted; dispersal begins mid-August, at height in October, lasting to late November. Majority in winter quarters November-March. Return begins March. Possibly rather sedentary in southern parts of range, e.g. Spain.
In west Palearctic, winters chiefly coasts from British Isles to Iberia, on ice-free lakes (especially France, Switzerland, Turkey), and on and around Mediterranean, Adriatic, Black, and Caspian Seas. Three-figure concentrations exceptional west Europe, but larger numbers in east.

Distribution map

Black-necked Grebe distribution range map

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