Grebes Nesting (Red-necked Grebes)

March 30, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Walking on the Wild Side

Red-Necked Grebes Nesting

 (Red-necked Grebe - Podiceps grisegena) 

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Welcome to Helena, Montana, where a well loved state park has become the unlikely nesting ground for a pair of red-necked grebes. This blog will take you on a visual journey, from the early stages of nest building to the heartwarming moments of feeding their young.

Our story begins in April when the red-necked grebes arrive at Spring Meadow Lake State Park. Here will be home for several months as the grebe pair executes a graceful landing on to the lake. This park is a common destination for bird watchers, walkers, fishermen and kids looking for a swim on a warm day. With love in the air, the grebes pay no heed to the people as they only have eyes for each other.



The sound of their calls, a “whinny-braying”, echos in the cool morning air as they begin their courtship rituals. Our pair engages in a series of coordinated movements; with raised crests, they swim in parallel rocking their heads from side to side; facing each other as they the rise out of the water, chest to chest; at times they may bring up bits of weed from underwater to present to their mate. This ritual strengthens the pair bond and establishes mating compatibility.

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Courtship complete, the natural desire to reproduce has the pair on the search for a suitable nest location. A spot where water levels will be ideal throughout the season and out of sight from predators and peeping Toms. With a location secured in the back section of the state park area it is time to build. With an eye for detail the grebes begin gathering materials from their surroundings. Twigs, reeds, and other natural elements are carefully woven together, creating a floating nest platform. As the nest takes shape, the female red-necked grebe lays a clutch of eggs (Grebes, will often have multiple clutches in a season with each clutch containing somewhere between three to five eggs). The pair takes turns incubating the eggs, showcasing their commitment to the each other and their soon to be young of the year.


After much anticipation, the eggs hatch, and one by one, the fluffy grebe chicks emerge. The shallow waters of the lake transforms into a feeding area as the red-necked grebe parents tirelessly dive for fish and aquatic invertebrates to feed their hungry chicks. The pair's devotion to each other and their young is on display for all, captivating the hearts of local residents and bird enthusiasts alike. Here they are able to witness daily feedings of the chicks who within days venture from the nest to ride on the backs of their parents, a heartwarming display of familial bonds.


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This urban location in Helena has proven to be more than just a water feature; it's a haven for a pair of red-necked grebes who have embraced the challenges of living in proximity to humans. While this pair has meet success on some years, there are also many years where the nest has failed. A common theme is that red-necked grebes and other similar species do face numerous challenges, including habitat loss and disturbances from human activities which could put them at risk.


Remember, conservation isn't just a responsibility; it's a privilege. Each one of us has the power to make a difference, and by taking small but meaningful steps in our daily lives, we can protect the planet we call home. So let's commit to being stewards of the environment, not just for ourselves, but for all living beings who share this beautiful Earth with us. Together, we can create a brighter, more sustainable future.


Lea Frye - Wildlife photographer



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     |      Lea Frye, Wildlife Photographer        |    Helena, MT

                     Wild Animals / Wild Landscapes



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