Western Grebe

Bird of the Month: Western Grebe

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Western Grebe)

PC: Mick Thompson (Western Grebe)

Scientific Name: Aechmophorus Occidentalis

Length 25 in

AOU Band code WEGR

The Western Grebe is a large bird at 25”, and is noticeable by its striking contrast between black above and white below.  It has a long, thin yellow-green bill and long swan-like neck which is black behind and white in front.  Its black cap extends over the head to include the eyes.  The similar, but less common, the Clark’s Grebe, has an orange-yellow bill and has a black cap that stops just above the eye, so the eye is in the white face.  The four letter code for Western Grebe is WEGR and for the Clarke’s is CLGR.  The call of the WEGR is a loud two-note kreek-kreek.  Gregarious – may nest in colonies of hundreds of pairs.  The nest is a floating platform of decayed and fresh plants in shallow water along broad freshwater lakes.  The WEGR has a spectacular courtship display which includes running on top of the water.  The young may ride on the back of the parents when in the water.  This bird winters on seacoasts and sheltered bays and large inland bodies of water (it is very common on Lake Washington in the winter).  Grebes do not have a long tail.  Their lobed feet help steer them underwater and in flight.