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Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis


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Western Grebe
credit: dominic sherony/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Podicipedidae, Grebes view all from this family

Description ADULT In summer, has blackish upperparts and white underparts; demarcation between these is most striking on head and neck. In winter, retains black and white appearance overall, but plumage surrounding eye is gray not black. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but dark elements of plumage are paler and eye is duller.

Dimensions Length: 22-29" (56-74 cm)

Habitat Locally common, found on reed-fringed freshwater lakes in breeding season, but mainly coastal in winter. Suffers from marine oil spills.

Observation Tips Conspicuous at start of breeding season when pairs perform elaborate displays that involve presenting each other with aquatic plants and ritual courtship "dances."

Range Texas, Eastern Canada, Northwest, California, Alaska, Plains, Southwest, Western Canada, New England, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, Southeast

Voice Utters a harsh, squealing kreeh kreet.

Discussion Elegant waterbird with a slender neck and long, narrow bill. Dives well and for extended periods after fish. Sexes are similar and all birds can be confused with Clark's Grebe. Extent of black cap is a good feature in breeding season: extends below beady red eye in Western, but not in Clark's; less obvious in winter. Bill color is more reliable year-round: yellowish green with a darker culmen in Western, but uniformly bright yellow in Clark's. Somewhat gregarious outside breeding season.