Podiceps auratus cornutus

Status: Fairly common regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Rare casual winter visitor central.

Documentation: Specimen: UNK Olson #3, 16 Apr 1910 Alda, Hall Co (Bray et al 1986).

Taxonomy: Two subspecies are recognized, auritus in the Palearctic, and cornutus in North America. Nebraska birds are cornutus.

Spring:  Mar 3, 4, 5 <<<>>> Jun 4, 4, 5

Migrants arrive during the latter third of Mar and peak in Apr. There are earlier reports 21 Feb 1970 Adams Co, 28 Feb Keith Co (Rosche 1994), and 29 Feb 2020 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, and a later report 17 Jun 2008 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co.

  • High counts: 236 at Lake McConaughy, Keith Co 5 Apr 1998, 69 in Scotts Bluff Co 8 Apr 2000, and 65 in Lancaster Co 13 Apr 2018.

Fall:  Aug 24, 25, 26 <<<>>> Jan 2, 2, 2

Migrants are normally first seen in mid-Sep and depart by late Nov.

Adults undergo pre-basic molt Jun-Oct, and so reports Jun-early Aug in Nebraska may refer to early migrants that have completed the molt, possibly failed breeders from points north. An example was three in fresh basic plumage photographed in Garden Co 3 Aug 2014; the additional reports are from the western Sandhills, of one on 17 Jul 1978 Garden Co, one on 22 Jul 1980 McPherson Co, and two on 28 Jul 1994 Garden Co.

  • High counts: 266 at Lake Minatare, Scotts Bluff Co 20 Oct 1978, 145 at North Platte NWR, Scotts Bluff Co 8 Nov 1997, and 133 at Lake Minatare 6 Nov 1999.

Winter:  Horned Grebes generally do not overwinter in Nebraska. The only record of overwintering was of two at Lake McConaughy 1999-2000.  Mid-winter reports are 12 Jan 1991 Lincoln Co, 29 Jan 1995 Johnson Lake SRA, Gosper and Dawson Cos, and 2 Feb 2019 Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co.

CommentsHorned Grebe has not been known to breed in Nebraska for more than 100 years.  Bruner et al (1904) indicated that Trostler had “found it breeding in the alkali lakes of northern Cherry Co” and Wolcott had found a pair with a newly made nest in the same region 6 Jun 1903.  The southernmost current breeding noted for this species is in northeast South Dakota, although it bred south to south-central South Dakota in the 1880s and 1890s (Tallman et al 2002).


NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SRA: State Recreation Area
UNK: University of Nebraska- Kearney


Photograph (top) of a Horned Grebe at Wehrspann Lake, Sarpy Co, on 28 Apr 2008 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Horned Grebe (Podiceps auratus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 27 Mar 2020