Grebes

How do you tell the difference between a Clark’s Grebe and a Western Grebe?

Well, pictured below, the Western grebe has a straight, yellow-green bill. Right around the eyes, the plumage is black. When they are young, their downy is grey.

The Clark’s Grebe, below, has a bright yellow, slightly upturned beak. Right around the eyes, the plumage is white. The downy young appear white, not grey.

Clark’s Grebe

Both types of Grebes will nest inland on large lakes and then migrate to the Pacific coast in winter. They make floating nests of plant material concealed among reeds. They have a very spectacular courtship display where two birds will rear up and patter across the water. Their young are relatively mature and mobile, and can swim immediately after birth. They are all excellent swimmers, owing this to their lobed toes.

They hunt by diving under water to catch carp, herring, mollusks, crabs, and salamanders. By pressing their feathers against the body, grebes can adjust their buoyancy. Often, they swim low in the water with just the head and neck exposed.

If you spot any grebes on lakes or on the coast this winter, snap a good photo and send it in to us!

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