Species Profile

Horned Grebe Western population

Scientific Name: Podiceps auritus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2009
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Approximately 92% of the North American breeding range of this species is in Canada and is occupied by this population. It has experienced both long-term and short-term declines and there is no evidence to suggest that this trend will be reversed in the near future. Threats include degradation of wetland breeding habitat, droughts, increasing populations of nest predators (mostly in the Prairies), and oil spills on their wintering grounds in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 2009.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2017-02-03

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Description

The Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) is a member of the Podiceps genus. There are two known subspecies of the Horned Grebe: (P. a. auritus), which breeds in Eurasia, and (P. a. cornutus), which breeds in North America. The Horned Grebe is a relatively small waterbird with breeding plumage characterized by a patch of bright buff feathers behind the eye, which extends into tufts that contrast with its black head. Horned Grebes occupy the upper trophic level and all of their life stages are tied to water. They may, therefore, be useful indicators of changes in wetland habitat. Furthermore, their striking nuptial plumage, spectacular courtship displays and approachable nature make them popular among bird watchers and ecotourists. On the Magdalen Islands, and by extension in eastern Canada, this small population is unique among the natural heritage. [Updated by COSEWIC - April. 2009]

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Distribution and Population

Approximately 92% of the North American breeding range of the Horned Grebe is in Canada. It breeds in British Columbia, Yukon, the Mackenzie River Valley in the Northwest Territories, the extreme southern part of Nunavut, all of the Prairies, northwestern Ontario and the Magdalen Islands (Quebec), where a small isolated population has been breeding for at least a century. In the United States, it breeds in central and southern Alaska, as well as locally in some northwestern states. Most of the North American population winters along the coasts of the continent. The Western Population of the Horned Grebe is estimated at between 200 000 and 500 000 individuals, with most of the birds found in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Long-term trend analyses based on Christmas Bird Counts show a significant decline of 1.5%/year between 1966 and 2005. At this rate of decline, the population will have decreased by approximately 45% since the mid-1960s. Short-term trend analyses based on the same survey methods show a significant annual rate of decline of 1.25%/year between 1993 and 2005 (three generations). At this rate, the population will have decreased by 14% over the last three generations. The Magdalen Islands Population in Quebec is estimated at an average of 15 adults. Since 1993, no more than 25 adults have been seen during the same breeding season and only five adults were observed in 2005. Analyses based on annual surveys on the Magdalen Islands suggest that the population has declined by approximately 22% over the last three generations. [Updated by COSEWIC - April. 2009]

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Habitat

The Horned Grebe breeds primarily in temperate zones such as the Prairies and Parkland Canada, but can also be found in more boreal and subarctic zones. It generally breeds in freshwater and occasionally in brackish water on small semi-permanent or permanent ponds, but it also uses marshes and shallow bays on lake borders. Breeding areas require open water rich in emerging vegetation, which provides nest materials, concealment and anchorage, and protection for the young. [Updated by COSEWIC - April. 2009]

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Biology

The Horned Grebe is generally a solitary nester, although it can nest in loose colonies if the breeding pond is sufficiently large and there are abundant food resources. The Horned Grebe is aggressive when defending its territory, rarely leaving its nest unguarded. Its diet consists primarily of aquatic insects and fish in the summer, and fish, crustaceans and polychaetes in the winter. [Updated by COSEWIC - April. 2009]

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Threats

Permanent loss of wetlands to agriculture and development threaten Horned Grebe populations. Temporary loss of wetlands during droughts can also negatively impact Horned Grebe populations, as can eutrophication and degradation of nesting sites from the accumulation of fertilizers used in agriculture. The expansion of predators on the Prairies, Type E Botulism on the Great Lakes and oil spills on the wintering grounds can also threaten Horned Grebe populations. The very small size of the Magdalen Islands Population makes it vulnerable to demographic, environmental and genetic factors. [Updated by COSEWIC - April. 2009]

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Horned Grebe Podiceps auritus in Canada (2009-08-28)

    The Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) is a member of the Podiceps genus. There are two known subspecies of the Horned Grebe: (P. a. auritus), which breeds in Eurasia, and (P. a. cornutus), which breeds in North America. The Horned Grebe is a relatively small waterbird with breeding plumage characterized by a patch of bright buff feathers behind the eye, which extends into tufts that contrast with its black head.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Horned Grebe, Western population (2009-11-25)

    Approximately 92% of the North American breeding range of this species is in Canada and is occupied by this population. It has experienced both long-term and short-term declines and there is no evidence to suggest that this trend will be reversed in the near future. Threats include degradation of wetland breeding habitat, droughts, increasing populations of nest predators (mostly in the Prairies), and oil spills on their wintering grounds in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada (2018-08-01)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits to other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at GINPR.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016-07-04)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), Western population, in Canada (2021-05-06)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Horned Grebe, Western population, and has prepared this management plan, as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, the Wek’eezhii Renewable Resources Board and the Wildlife Management Advisory Council as per section 66(1) of SARA. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Management Plan for the Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), Western population, in Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)

    2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species, December 2009 (2009-12-17)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 1, 2010 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 1, 2011 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Related Information

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) Listing Plan 2016 to 2018 (2017-09-29)

    The status of wildlife species is assessed by an independent panel of expert Canadian scientists, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 149 terrestrial species were assessed as at-risk by COSEWIC between 2009 and 2016 and are eligible for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to be considered by the Governor-in-Council (GIC) on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment: 86 species would be new additions, 54 currently listed species would be reclassified and 9 species would be updated to reflect changes in their recognized designatable units. A three-year listing plan has been developed to address all 149 terrestrial species and listing decisions for most species are anticipated by the end of 2018. Making amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA is a two-step process. The first step is for the GIC to propose an amendment through an order in council published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. The second step is for the GIC to make a final decision on whether or not to make amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA, taking into consideration comments received during the 30-day public comment period. The amendments are made through an order in council published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Both orders are accompanied by a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) which presents the implications of listing the species or changing their status. Publishing this plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency about the Government of Canada’s plan to make listing decisions under the Species at Risk Act. NOTE: The information presented below is intended to provide openness and transparency with respect to when terrestrial species might be considered for listing under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. It is intended to assist anyone who may wish to provide comments on such listing considerations. Given any number of factors can affect the timing of a listing decision; the Plan is subject to change. Accordingly, the Plan will be periodically updated.
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