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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)



Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena), listed as Endangered in Wisconsin, prefers seasonally or permanently flooded wetlands with extensive beds of aquatic plants and large beds of softstem bulrush in open country. Nesting habitat includes wetlands with patches of open water and stands of bulrush (Scirpus validus, S. acutus) or similar emergents. The required avoidance period is May 1 - June 15.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Podiceps grisegena in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1B
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: The red-necked grebe is the second largest grebe in North America. Plumage includes gray upper body with white below. Top of head is black, cheeks are nearly white, neck is dark red, bill is straight and mainly black with yellow at the base, and eyes are dark brown. Diagnostic field characteristic is angular tuft of feathers toward rear of crown. Legs and feet are black. This bird is short-bodied, long-necked, and long billed.

Habitat: Nesting habitat includes wetlands with patches of open water and stands of bulrush (Scirpus validus, S. acutus) or similar emergents. Fresh water lakes, lagoons, floodwaters, and calm rivers with some emergent vegetative cover are commonly used.

State Distribution: Uncommon spring migrant; rare fall migrant. Rare summer resident. The largest population exists in Rush Lake, Winnebago County. Recently, between 35-65 pairs have nested there annually. In the Grassy Lake Wildlife Area in Columbia County, one to three pairs have nested annually since 1975. Range in Wisconsin is generally the westcentral and south-central parts of the state. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Diet: Diet consists of mostly minnows and small fish; also crayfish, aquatic insects and their larvae, tadpoles, salamanders, vegetative matter.

Clutch: Usually 3-6 blue-white eggs; laid from May to June.

Incubation: 22-23 days, by both parents. Young probably fledge at about 8-10 weeks.

Nest: Marsh grasses, reeds, rushes, and mass floating on water.

Management Guidelines: Wetland habitat loss is the major factor contributing to population declines in the state. The alteration or destruction of wetlands eliminates nesting habitat. Conservation of large inland wetland complexes is critical to the stability of red-necked grebe populations.



Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe.

Photo © Donna Dewhurst.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe with Young.

Photo © Donna Dewhurst.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe Nest.

Photo © Donna Dewhurst.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe Pair.

Photo © Donna Dewhurst.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Red-necked Grebe. Only natural communities for which Red-necked Grebe is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Emergent Marsh 3
Floating-leaved Marsh 3
Submergent Marsh 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Red-necked Grebe. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Red-necked Grebe occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020