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The Black-necked Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis, known in North America as the Eared Grebe, is a member of the grebe family of water birds. It occurs on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
There are three subspecies: *P. n. nigricollis is found from western Europe to western Asia (wintering to the south and west), in central and eastern Asia, and in eastern Africa *P. n. gurneyi is found in southern Africa *P. n. californicus is found from southwestern Canada through the western U.S. It winters as far south as Guatemala. The two common names for this species both refer to features visible when the bird is in its breeding plumage; in such plumage, it has an all-black neck and a spray of golden plumes on each side of its head. The name "Eared Grebe" was in usage nearly a century before the name "Black-necked Grebe". The latter was first used in 1912 by Ernst Hartert, in an effort to bring the common name of the species in line with its scientific name. The genus name of this speciesPodicepscomes from two Latin words: podicis, meaning "vent" or "anus" and pes meaning "foot". This is a reference to the attachment point of the bird's legsat the extreme back end of its body. The specific epithet nigricollis is Latin for "black-necked": niger means "black" and collis means "neck".
The Black-necked Grebe is long. The adult is unmistakable in summer with a black head and neck and yellow ear tufts. In winter, this small grebe is white with a poorly defined black cap, which distinguishes it from the crisper-looking Slavonian Grebe (Horned Grebe in America). In courtship the male gives a mellow poo-ee-chk call to the female. This species breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe, Asia, Africa, northern South America and the southwest and western United States. The North American subspecies, P. n. californicus is known as the Eared Grebe (or "eared diver"). These birds migrate in winter, mostly to the Pacific Coast where they range south to El Salvador on a regular basis; vagrants may occur as far as Costa Rica. Black-necked Grebes of the nominate subspecies P. n. nigricollis in the cooler temperate regions of the Old World also winter further south, with many European birds moving to the Mediterranean area. The isolated southern African race, P. n. gurneyi is sedentary. It was named by South African ornithologist and author Austin Roberts in honour of the English bankers and amateur ornithologists John Henry Gurney and John Henry Gurney Jr.. Sadly the large breeding population in County Roscommon, Ireland discovered about 1915 fell victim to a drainage scheme in the late 1930s; at its peak there were an estimated 250 pairs. Breeding, in very small numbers, was suspected in Ireland in 2002, 2006 and 2011. image:Eared Grebe.jpg|Eared Grebe in non-breeding plumage Image:Horned Grebe.jpg|The similar Horned Grebe in non-breeding plumage for comparison
The Black-necked Grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its prey underwater, eating mostly fish as well as small crustaceans, aquatic insects and larvae. It prefers to escape danger by diving rather than flying, although it can easily rise from the water. Like all grebes, the Black-necked Grebe nests on the water's edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually two eggs are laid, and the striped young are sometimes carried on the adult's back. Interestingly, the eared grebe is essentially flightless for most of the year (9 to 10 months), and serves as an example of one of the most inefficient flier among avifauna. Generally, this bird avoids flying at all costs and reserves long distance flight exclusively for migration. However, when migrating, it will travel as much as to reach prosperous areas which are exploited by few other species.