The Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus), is a member of the grebe family of water birds. It is known as the Horned Grebe in North America. The Slavonian Grebe breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe and Asia. It also breeds in remote inland parts of the United States and much of Canada. Most birds migrate in winter to the coast.
It is a small grebe at 12 to 15 inches long with an 18 to 21.75 inch wingspan. Unmistakable in summer, the male’s plumage includes a black head with brown puffy earlike tufts along the sides of its face. It shows a deep red neck, scarlet eyes, and a small, straight black bill tipped with white. It rides high in the water.
Like all grebes, it 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. Slavonian Grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. During breeding, the male’s call is heard as an odd, striking series of loud croaks and chattering notes followed by prolonged shrieks.
In the lore of the Blackfeet, the trickster Old Man tricked several ducks into closing their eyes and dancing while he killed them one by one. However, the smallest duck looked, saw the Old Man, and alerted the other ducks. This “duck” was the Slavonian Grebe, who became the first to notice trouble.