The Red-necked Grebe has several plumages. In the breeding plumage it's head has a black cap and pale gray cheek patch extending upward behind the eye. Forneck and upper breast are chestnut; belly is pale; sides and flanks grayish. The upper parts are dark brownish black. Wings are dark with 2 white patches. The winter plumage has black cap on head, mouse-gray patch on ears, and white crescent extending from white chin and throat upward behind ear. The forneck is white or light-gray blending to dark gray-black hindneck (Stout and Nuechterlein 1999).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Migration periods are April 22 to May 22 in the spring and August 13 to October 17 in the fall.
The Red-necked Grebe inhabits mainly lowlands freshwater lakes or protected marsh areas and secluded bays of larger lakes, usually with at least some emergent vegetation. It also will inhabit bogs, sloughs, quiet river channels, alkaline lakes, large irrigation ditches and borrow pits (Stout and Nuechterlein 1999).
It eats a wide variety of fish, aquatic invertebrates, and occasionally amphibians. The Red-necked Grebe is a visual predator and pursues fish and other swimming prey underwater and plucks items off bottom and off vegetation (Stout and Nuechterlein 1999).
Arrive on breeding lakes shortly after ice breakup, usually mid-April and may continue nesting into late August or September. First brood clutch averages about 20 days into the breeding season. If the nest is lost they will nest up to 5 times. If first brood is successful the Red-necked Grebe will rarely attempt a second brood (Stout and Nuechterlein 1999).