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 9, 9, 10 <<<>>> May 30, 31, 31

Migrants arrive during the latter third of Mar and peak in Apr. There is 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.

FallSep 14, 15, 15 <<<>>> Dec 4, 5, 6

Migrants are normally first seen in mid-Sep and depart by late Nov. Earlier dates are 19 Aug 2019 Hooker Co, 3 Sep 2016 Wayne Co, 10 Sep 2014 two Sheridan Co, 12 Sep 2014 nine Lancaster Co.

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 8 Dec 2015 Branched Oak Lake, 17 Dec 2015 Dodge Co, 31 Dec 2011 Keith Co, 31 Dec 2003 Lake Ogallala, 31 Dec 2003 Lincoln Co, 2 Jan 2011 Lake Ogallala, 12 Jan 1991 Lincoln Co, 29 Jan 1995 Johnson Lake SRA, Gosper and Dawson Cos, 2 Feb 2019 Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co, 21 Feb 1970 Adams Co, 22 Feb 1998 Lake Ogallala, 28 Feb Keith Co (Rosche 1994), 29 Feb 2020 Lake Ogallala, 3 Mar 1993 Sarpy Co, and 4 Mar 2016 three Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster 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.  2021.  Horned Grebe (Podiceps auratus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 14 Mar 2021