First Horned Grebes Settle in Reykjavík Pond

horned grebe

Two horned grebes have settled in Reykjavík Pond in the city centre, RÚV reports. It is the first time the species is found nesting at the location. At the turn of the century, the horned grebe population was placed on a watchlist due to its decline, but it seems to have made a recovery since.

The horned grebe is a small waterbird named for the large patches of yellowish feathers located behind their eyes. The birds can raise and lower these patches, known as “horns,” at will. Though the species has been multiplying in Southwest Iceland in recent years, this is nevertheless the first time the birds have settled by the pond in the heart of Reykjavík. The horned grebe is the only bird in Iceland that builds a floating nest.

“Horned grebes have not laid eggs by Reykjavík Pond since people started observing the birdlife here,” says Snorri Sigurðsson, a biologist for the City of Reykjavík. “They haven’t yet laid eggs, we don’t know that for sure, but it’s not unlikely that they are a couple.” Snorri says it is very unusual for the species to settle in the middle of a city.

“For a long time [the species has nested] by Ástjörn pond in Hafnarfjörður but now they have multiplied so that one couple has clearly decided to come all the way here to [Reykjavík Pond].” Snorri says it’s surprising that the birds are attempting to settle at the location, as the area doesn’t fulfil the conditions horned grebes prefer for nesting. “It’s a bit lacking in the shoreline vegetation that the horned grebe wants in order to be able to fasten the floating nest it makes, but they’ve been sticking to the little islet here, maybe they see some opportunity there,” Snorri observes. “We haven’t seen any nest yet but we’ll be monitoring this.”

At some lakes in Iceland, man-made nesting sites have been outfitted to encourage horned grebes to breed. “This has been done at Vífilstaðavatn and Elliðavatn with very good results, the horned grebes showed up right away and took advantage of it.” Snorri says no such plan has been implemented for the new residents of Reykjavík Pond, though it could be considered if the need arises.