South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Eared Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

Length: 12.5 inches Wingspan: 22 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Summer plumage in South Dakota is black neck with gold ear tufts

Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollisEared Grebes are a fairly common grebe in the state, more so than the similar Horned Grebe.  They are a very gregarious bird, often breeding in very large colonies, and often migrating together in huge flocks.  The "ear" of the Eared Grebe is a tuft of gold feathers behind the eye that appears during breeding season (see bottom photo).  The photo on the right is of a bird in breeding plumage.  Neck color is a distinguishing mark used to differentiate summer plumage Eared Grebes and Horned Grebes.

Habitat: Sloughs and marshes, shallow ponds and lakes with herbaceous wetlands. 

Diet: Mostly aquatic insects and crustaceans, occasionally tadpoles, small frogs, and small fish. 

Behavior: Feeds by diving underwater and propelling itself by its feet.  Will also take food items from the surface of the water.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Generally silent, with soft mutterings in courtship.

Migration: Summers on interior lakes of the west and northern plains, summers along the Pacific Coast, the Gulf Coast, and Mexico.

Similar Species: Horned Grebe

Conservation Status: Widespread and common, with no discernible declines in population.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Eared Grebe

2) Eared Grebe

3) Eared Grebe

Photo Information: April 30th, 2005 -- Lake Thompson, Kingsbury County -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Eared Grebe photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Eared Grebe - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant throughout the state.  Common summer resident in the eastern part of the state.