Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
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General Comments The Eared Grebe also breeds, like the Red-necked and Horned grebes, in some Prairie pothole lakes and ponds, but most nest on larger lakes (natural and reservoirs) in the western half of the United States and southern Canada, often in otherwise arid areas. Most winter in the Southwestern states, but in recent decades the species has been found annually in the East, including a few birds that overwinter at sewage treatment ponds at Goldsboro (though mostly formerly). Eared Grebes have a very wide choice of locales and habitats while in North Carolina in migration and winter -- inshore ocean, bays, impoundments, smaller lakes, and ponds, including quite small sewage treatment ponds. As with the Red-necked Grebe, Eareds are best found with scopes by diligent searching of such waters, especially as they can be easily overlooked as Horned Grebes.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter visitor and transient, and sporadic winter resident at Goldsboro. Rare but annual along the entire coast, on both salt water and fresh. Casual to very rare in the Tidewater zone; surprisingly just a single record for Lake Mattamuskeet. Farther inland, a few birds overwintered at the sewage treatment ponds at Goldsboro into the 2010's, failed to show up for several years in the late 2010's, but two were present in fall-winter 2021-2022. Casual elsewhere inland (only several records). Mainly late Sep to late Mar, but records for all months except May. A notably early fall migrant for a diving bird, with several dozen records for Sep. Peak counts: 16, Goldsboro, 4 Oct 1997; 15, Goldsboro, 18 Oct 1998; coastally -- 7, Jacksonville, 12 Oct 2001; 5, Cape Hatteras, 27 Dec 2005.
Piedmont Winter visitor and transient. Very rare to rare on the larger reservoirs, and very rare elsewhere; several dozen records. Oddly, unlike in the Coastal Plain, where routinely seen as early as Sep, there seems to be only one Sep record. Mainly late Nov to late Mar, with only a few records for the first half of Nov and for Apr. Peak counts: 4, Jordan Lake, 11 Jan 2005; 4, Jordan Lake, 18 Nov 2007.
Mountains Casual to very rare transient in the southern mountains. Records are of single birds at Brevard, 10 Nov 1996; Lake Osceola (Henderson), 25 Mar 1998; and Lake Julian (Buncombe), 4 Mar 2014; and two birds at Lake Junaluska (Haywood), 29 Mar 2008. Unique as a wintering bird -- first ever for the province -- was one at Lake Julian from 15 Dec 2020 - 25 Mar 2021.
Finding Tips It was formerly seen each fall and winter at the Goldsboro sewage ponds; however, reports have been scarce in the past handful of years. The best chance is along the coast, with the most frequent occurrence at the large tidal pond at Cape Hatteras Point and impoundments at Pea Island. Of course, always carefully scan the ocean in winter, for any rare waterbirds, as Eared Grebes do occur close to the shore. Your best chance is to quickly go to a lake or pond where it has been found, coastally or inland, and try to re-locate it.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-08], LeGrand[2023-03-02], LeGrand[2022-04-25]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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