Slavonian Grebe

Podiceps auritus (Linnaeus, 1758) SZ SLAGR 110
Family: Podicipediformes > Podicipedidae

Slavonian Grebe, Edmund Fellowes

As with most grebe species, Slavonian Grebes look very different in their summer and winter plumages and choose different habitats in the two seasons.

The story of changing status of Slavonian Grebes in Britain differs between the seasons too. In winter individuals occur close inshore around the coasts of Britain & Ireland, with particular concentrations in sheltered Scottish waters, and south along the North Sea coast of eastern England. Atlas data show a significant expansion in the wintering range of recent decades.

The British breeding population is restricted to a few lochs in the eastern highlands of Scotland, where strikingly chestnut birds – with black head and prominent orange-yellow ‘ear’ tufts – can be glimpsed amongst emergent vegetation. Unfortunately, this tiny population is declining.


Slavonian Grebe identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Slavonian Grebe.

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Identifying small breeding Grebes

Black-necked Grebe. Photograph by Graham Catley

Small grebes in summer are gloriously-coloured birds, but two of the three species are unfamiliar to most. Poor light or frequently encountered partially moulted birds can also cause some identification headaches. Let us help you separate these beautiful birds.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Small numbers of Slavonian Grebe breed in Scotland, with a five-year mean of 29 breeding pairs during the period 2015–2019, according to RBBP figures; the Scottish population has declined strongly in the 25 years to 2019 (Eaton et al. 2021) after rising from 49 pairs in 1971 to 73 pairs in 1993 (Balmer et al. 2013). Range losses have occurred across much of Europe and also in North America and the species is consequently listed as Vulnerable on the Global IUCN Red List (BirdLife International 2021).


In winter, Slavonian Grebes occur around much of the coast of Scotland, with particular concentrations in sheltered waters in the Northern Isles, northwest Scotland, the Moray Firth, the Firth of Forth and Loch Ryan. In England they are found mainly in Northumberland and farther south along the coast from East Anglia to Cornwall. There are scattered records around the Irish coastline. A small breeding population is confined to the eastern Scottish Highlands.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Slavonian Grebes are most often see in winter, when present from early autumn to late winter/early spring, but also present in the small Scottish breeding range throughout summer.

Weekly occurence of Slavonian Grebe from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Slavonian Grebe ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Slavonian Grebe, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Gobhlachan-mara
Welsh: Gwyach Gorniog
Catalan: cabussó orellut
Czech: potápka žlutorohá
Danish: Nordisk Lappedykker
Dutch: Kuifduiker
Estonian: sarvikpütt
Finnish: mustakurkku-uikku
French: Grèbe esclavon
German: Ohrentaucher
Hungarian: füles vöcsök
Icelandic: Flórgoði
Irish: Foitheach Cluasach
Italian: Svasso cornuto
Latvian: ragainais dukuris
Lithuanian: raguotasis kragas
Norwegian: Horndykker
Polish: perkoz rogaty
Portuguese: mergulhão-de-penachos
Slovak: potápka ušatá
Slovenian: zlatouhi ponirek
Spanish: Zampullín cuellirrojo
Swedish: svarthakedopping


Interpretation and scientific publications about Slavonian Grebe from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

Ewing et al. (2013) did not find any clear evidence linking population declines to climate change but were also unable to discount the possibility that it could occur through indirect mechanisms that they could not consider. In a Scottish study, productivity was affected by a number of factors including predation of eggs by crows, predation of young by pike and disturbance by anglers (Summers et al. 2009). A study at Loch Ruthven found that breeding productivity was positively correlated with chironomid abundance at the site (Brooks et al. 2012). There is no clear evidence to indicate which of these factors (if any) is most likely to have driven population changes.

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