Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Red-necked Grebe - Podiceps grisegena
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General Comments The Red-necked Grebe, which breeds mainly in the Prairie pothole region with the Horned Grebe, is always a good find for the birder in the state who is willing to spend the time with a scope scanning the ocean in winter, as a few are reported in the state each year. The species is almost always seen singly, with that solo bird often mixing with the much more numerous Red-throated and Common loons, and at times Horned Grebes, usually a few hundred yards offshore. And, as with those other species, the grebes dive often, making photography of the species quite difficult. Red-necked Grebes also can be found at times on larger inland lakes, but can never be expected there. And, at times they are seen on Pamlico Sound or other large bays. A record-setting flurry of records was made in the state starting in early Mar 2014, especially inland -- presumably attributed to freezing up of lakes farther north, especially the Great Lakes. There were so many reports that all of them could not be published in The Chat due to space limitations! In Feb 2015 there was a lesser invasion of grebes onto Piedmont lakes.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter visitor. Rare, though practically annual, along the northern coast, south to at least Hatteras Island; very rare to rare the farther south along the coast. Very rare in the Tidewater region (sounds and bays). Casual to very rare farther inland. The only regional records from fresh water prior to 2014 are three from the Fayetteville area: 28 Feb - 4 Mar 1963; 22 Mar 1967; and 1 Feb - 20 Mar 1977; and one from the Neuse River south of New Bern (Craven), 16 Mar - 2 Apr 2011. However, in Mar-Apr 2014, reports were made in Cumberland, Edgecombe, Hoke, Tyrrell, Washington, and Wilson; the highest counts were 6 at Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson) on 5 May, and 6 at Lake Phelps (Washington) on 9 Mar. Mainly late Nov to mid- or late Mar, "peaking" in Feb to very early Mar -- quite late in the normal time span in the state. Extremely late were single birds on Pamlico Sound at Rodanthe (Dare) from 9-19 May 2020, and one far inland at Goldsboro (Wayne) on 20 May 2020. Peak counts: a remarkable 138 on 5 Mar 1994 from Cape Hatteras to Rodanthe; 87 on 25 Feb 1994 along the "Outer Banks".
Piedmont Rare winter visitor and transient, mainly on large reservoirs in the northern part of the province, with a preponderance for Roanoke Rapids, Falls, Jordan, and Townsend. However, the species was reported in many counties in the province, especially in the western portions, in Mar-Apr 2014. Absent to casual in counties without large lakes. Records from late Oct into early May, with a report (correct?) from the absurdly late dates of 8-15 Jun 1960 at a lake or large pond in Surry; however, the majority of records are from late Jan to early Mar (with the exception of large numbers of records in 2014 into Apr and as late as 6 May). One was early at Jordan Lake (Chatham) on 11-12 Oct 2022. Peak counts -- all in 2014: 44, Jordan Lake, 8 Mar; 42, Lake Hickory, 5 Mar; 38 on lakes north of Greensboro, 5 Mar.
Mountains Casual winter visitor (except a handful of records in Mar 2014). Prior to 2014, just three records, all from the southern mountains -- in Buncombe on 21-22 Feb 1976 at Lake Julian and 25 Feb 1995 at Beaver Lake; and at Four Seasons Marsh in Hendersonville on 4 Mar 2007. Unfortunately, The Chat does not list the full array of sightings that were reported on the carolinabirds listserve or on eBird in Mar 2014. Quite remarkably late was one seen at Lake Julian on 17-18 Jun 2014. Peak count: 37, Lake Julian, 4 Mar 2014.
Finding Tips This species is normally seen on the ocean. As it is a northern species, the farther north you go, the better your chance; and, the colder the winter, the better your chance also. There is a build-up of numbers along the central Atlantic coast in late winter, and in February 1994, observers reported dozens in a day along the Outer Banks, with a count of 138 being remarkable. You will need rather calm seas, and preferably good light, to identify them, as they dive frequently and can be frustratingly difficult to see closely through your scope. Inland, it is too rare to specifically search for it. It is reported essentially annually on large inland lakes, such as Jordan, Roanoke Rapids, and Townsend; thus, quickly check out any such reports from inland lakes, as the bird may stay for a few days.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-17], LeGrand[2023-03-02], LeGrand[2020-08-03]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.