A migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Like all grebes, the red-necked is a good swimmer, a particularly swift diver, and responds to danger by diving rather than flying. The red-necked grebe is a medium-large grebe. In breeding plumage, it has a black cap that extends below the eye, very pale grey cheeks and throat, a rusty red neck, dark grey back and flanks, and white underparts. The eyes are dark brown and the long, pointed bill is black with a yellow base. The winter plumage of the red-necked grebe is duskier than that of other grebes; its dark grey cap is less defined, and merges into the grey face, and a pale crescent that curves around the rear of the face contrasts with the rest of the head. The front of the neck is whitish or light grey, the hind neck is darker grey, and the yellow of the bill is less obvious than in summer. Although the red-necked grebe is unmistakable in breeding plumage, it is less distinctive in winter and can be confused with similar species. The sexes are similar in appearance, although the male averages heavier than the female.
Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.