Annotated checklist and data resource
text © Don Roberson
photos copyrighted by photographer(s) credited
all photos taken in Monterey County, California
Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Eared Grebe is a common and widespread migrant and winter visitor to both freshwater and inshore saltwater habitats in Monterey County (MTY). Some beginning arriving in September, big numbers are in by late October and these birds remain through March. Numbers begin declining in April and are much reduced by May. Only a very few remain through the summer. These latter birds have been non-breeders, but it is possible that Eared Grebe may nest in MTY under prime conditions in the future.
Eared Grebes are small gray-and-white grebes with short, thin, very slightly upturned bills. They tend to have a 'peaked' appearance to the crown above the eye, and often carry their rear ends fluffed up. There is much smudgy dark color on the neck and face, separating the white on the face to two white 'hot spots' rather than a uniformly white cheek. First-year birds have yellow eyes (above left) but adults and all grebes later in the winter in red eyes (above right).
Both photos digiscoped 9 Jan 2004 Monterey harbor © D. Roberson.
When Eared Grebes first arrive in autumn, some first-year birds, like the one shown (right), appear to have much whiter cheeks, have more white on the neck, show a flatter crown, and don't also hold the rear-end fluffed up. These birds can be misidentified as "Horned Grebes". Please see a more detailed page on this identification problem. Eared Grebes are always less bulky, thinner, and more delicate than Horned Grebes.

Photo 23 Oct 2004 Roberts Lake © D. Roberson

By spring, most Eared Grebes are in various states of molt into full breeding plumage (left). They develop bright red eyes, blackish necks, rusty flanks, and golden facial plumes. In all plumages, however, they remain a lightweight grebe with a short, thin bill that usually looks slightly upturned. Note the dark bill tip in all plumages.

Photo Apr 1999 Monterey harbor © D. Roberson

Where to find a Eared Grebe in MTY: This small grebe is common and widespread in migration and winter. Favored locales are:
  • Elkhorn Slough and Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Research Reserve, and Moss Landing Harbor
  • Monterey harbor, sometimes in the harbor but more often just offshore the Coast Guard pier or off the tip of the Commercial Wharf (Wharf #2, the one you can drive on and park in the metered slots). 
  • Larger lakes and ponds inland, including Lake San Antonio
Good numbers are found on the local Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). The recent average* for the Monterey Peninsula CBC is 154 Eared Grebes, and on the Moss Landing CBC it is 61 grebes (but some of those are in adjacent Santa Cruz County).
* = "recent averages" for Christmas Bird Counts are found by compiling the totals reported for last dozen counts, throwing out the high and low counts that may be biased by observer error or bad weather, and averaging the remaining ten counts.
Go back to
Western Grebe

Use the following links to other portions of the MTY checklist:

Part 1: Waterfowl through Grebes
Part 2: Albatrosses through Frigatebirds
Part 3: Herons through Cranes
Part 4: Plovers through Sandpipers
Part 5: Jaegers through Alcids
Part 6: Doves through Woodpeckers
Part 7: Flycatchers through Larks
Part 8: Swallows through Pipits
Part 9: Waxwings through Warblers
Part 10: Tanagers through Sparrows
Part 11: Grosbeaks through Finches
or just the plain Checklist (no annotations)
Readers may use this material for their own private enjoyment, study, or research but none of the photos or text herein may be used commercially nor may they be reposted on other web sites without written permission. All material is copyrighted. The posting of photos and text on this private web site is not a submission to review organizations.






Page created 23 Nov 2004