Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii)

These big grebes sometimes seem like graceful feathered monkeys in the way that they imitate one another. They can take their dancing to a higher level when it comes mating time; see Grebe Dating, 5/27/20. For now, they just seemed to be playing, having fun copying each other, like kids do. These two and three were awake and active at a time when dozens, possibly more than a hundred, of their probable conspecifics were napping further out on the North Basin waters. I say probable because the sleeping ones had their heads tucked into their back feathers and it was guesswork whether they were Clark’s or Westerns. But well over 90 per cent of the bigger grebes I’ve seen recently on the water here have been Clark’s — clear yellow beak, dark head cap clear of the eye. That’s despite the finding that Western Grebes (muddy yellow-greenish bill, head cap covering eye) are far more numerous nationally than the Clark’s. If you have trouble telling them apart, don’t feel bad. Scientists thought they were the same species until 1985, when they discovered that they rarely interbreed even when living in close quarters, and have substantially different DNA. That doesn’t really matter anyway when it comes to watching them dance. Both species show the same entrancing behavior.

Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii)

More about them: Wikipedia Cornell Audubon In Chavez Park

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