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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Horned Grebe -- Podiceps auritus

RANGE: Breeds in North America from central Alaska and northern Yukon to northern Manitoba south to eastern Washington, central Wisconsin, and extreme western Ontario. Winters from the Aleutian Islands and southern Alaska along the Pacific Coast to southern California and along the Atlantic Coast from Nova Scotia to southern Florida. During winter primarily marine, off ocean beaches and rocky shores as well as in sheltered inlets and bays. May be found in any water as a migrant.

STATUS: Common in North America except in the Southwest.

HABITAT: Inhabits ponds, marshes, sloughs, backwaters of streams and rivers, shallow bays of large lakes, and flooded places with some open water. Can alight on and take wing from small streams. Early in breeding season, often found where relatively little plant cover extends above water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Small, shallow potholes of 18 acres or less.

NEST: A solitary nester, with one pair occupying an entire pond. Builds nests commonly in quiet shallow water, usually well within a fringe of emergent vegetation, although sometimes very exposed. The floating, partly submerged nest is anchored to reeds or bushes or to bottom. Prefers to nest in small ponds with open water where territory can be observed visually.

FOOD: Usually feeds in water 5 to 25 feet deep. Food caught during long dives under water consists primarily of small fish, crayfish, amphipods, prawns, shrimp, aquatic and land insects, and some amphibians and leeches; may also include some vegetable matter. In winter, nearly half of diet may be crustaceans.

REFERENCES: Faaborg 1976, Ferguson 1981, Palmer 1962, Robbins et al. 1983, Terres 1980, Wetmore 1924.

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