Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis

The Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) also known as the dabchick, swan grebe, and swan-necked grebe, is a species of water bird found in western North America. They are commonly found in colonies numbering in the hundreds on large island lakes and sometimes along coastal marshes. Northern birds migrate west to coastal ocean in winter, while birds in the southwest and Mexico may be permanent residents.

The Western Grebe is the largest North American grebe, measuring 22 to 29 inches long. It is black and white with a long, slender, swan-like neck and red eyes. It is easily confused with Clark’s Grebe, which has similar features, behavior and habitat. Hybrids between the two are fairly common.

It has black around the eyes and a straight greenish-yellow bill, distinguishing it from Clark’s Grebe, which has white around they eyes and an upturned bright yellow bill. The downy young of are gray; Clark’s downy young are white.

The courtship display of the Western Grebe is quite striking. Two birds will rear up and patter across the water’s surface. Its diet consists of carp, herring, mollusks, crabs, and salamanders.

Image Credit: Dominic Sherony / Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)