Species At Risk

Horned Grebe

(Podiceps auritus)

special concern provincially and national populations have been designated either special concern (western population) or endangered (Magdalen Islands populations)

Horned Grebe


The Horned Grebe is a small duck-like waterbird 31-38 cm long with a short, pointed bill. In breeding plumage, the Horned Grebe has a black head with a distinctive patch of golden yellow feathers behind its eye called “horns.” The front of its neck and upper breast are reddish. Males and females look similar, although males are typically brighter than females in breeding plumage.

Action we are taking:


The Horned Grebe is found across North America and Eurasia. Most of its North American breeding range is located in Canada, extending from northwestern Ontario to British Columbia and north to Alaska (Western population). A small, isolated breeding population also exists in Quebec, where it is limited to the Magdalen lslands.

The Horned Grebe is a rare breeder in Ontario. Following the breeding season, most individuals migrate from inland freshwater nesting sites to coastal marine sites, although some individuals overwinter on large bodies of freshwater.


The Horned Grebe usually nests in small ponds, marshes and shallow bays that contain areas of open water and emergent vegetation. Nests are usually located within a few metres of open water. This vegetation provides adults with nest materials, concealment, and protection for their young. The Horned Grebe occupies natural habitat more often than man-made reservoirs and artificial ponds.


It is not known why the Horned Grebe is declining across North America. It is expected that populations are threatened by the permanent loss of wetlands to agriculture and development. Widespread and recurring droughts across the prairies have also resulted in loss of wetlands.


The Horned Grebe is a special concern species under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. A management plan will be prepared.

The Western and Magdalen Islands populations of Horned Grebe were assessed as special concern and endangered, respectively, by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

What You Can Do to Help the Horned Grebe

  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • As with all wildlife, don’t disturb or harass the birds or nesting sites. Be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Horned Grebe. You can use an online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful! http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/species/species_report.cfm.
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.

Did you know?

Horned Grebes are awkward on land and spend the majority of their time swimming or floating on the water. A sleeping Horned Grebe rests its neck on its back and tucks one of its feet under a wing. It uses the other foot to manoeuvre in the water.

Did you know?

In order to be concealed from predators, Horned Grebes build cryptic, floating nests in mats of emergent vegetation. Nests are affixed to aquatic vegetation or exposed rocks so that they don’t float away. Some parents construct nests on exposed rocks or along the shoreline.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.