Red-necked Grebes, Podiceps grisegena
Red-necked Grebes are found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including lakes, ponds, marshes, and slow-flowing rivers. They prefer larger bodies of water with abundant vegetation. They breed in the northern parts of North America and Eurasia, including Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Russia. During winter, they migrate to southern coastal areas, and estuaries, mainly at sea, but also large inland lakes.
They have a striking appearance with a reddish-brown neck and dark gray-black upperparts. During the breeding season, they develop bright golden tufts behind their eyes, which contrast with their black head.
Red-necked Grebes are elegant divers and skilled hunters. They can disappear underwater with a smooth and swift dive and silently resurface at a distance from where they dived. They use their feet and wings for propulsion, and their sharp bill enables them to catch and consume their prey. They feed primarily on fish, especially small species such as minnows and perch. They also consume aquatic invertebrates, including crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.
Red-necked Grebes have a variety of vocalizations, including soft croaking calls, trills, and whinnies. They use vocalizations for communication, particularly during territorial disputes and courtship when they perform elaborate displays, including head shaking, running on water, and calling.
Red-necked Grebes form breeding pairs during the spring season. They construct their nests on floating vegetation or among emergent plants in shallow water. The nest is a platform made of plant material, including reeds, grasses, and aquatic vegetation.
The female typically lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs, which are pale green or blue-green in color. Incubation is performed by both parents and lasts for about 22 to 28 days. After hatching, the parents carry the young on their backs, providing protection and warmth. The young grebes are able to swim and feed themselves shortly after hatching.
Both the male and female actively participate in raising their young. They provide food for the chicks by capturing small fish, insects, and invertebrates. The parents may regurgitate partially digested food for the chicks to consume. The young grebes learn to forage and dive by observing and imitating their parents.
Red-necked Grebe chicks fledge, or acquire their flight feathers, at around 60 to 70 days after hatching. Once they fledge, they become independent and capable of sustained flight.
In winter they migrate sometimes as far south as Mexico and the southern United States. In Eurasia, they winter mainly in the North and Baltic Seas, and some in the Adriatic, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Mediterranean and on inland lakes.