Eared? Horned? Small Grebe ID 101

Telling Horned Grebes apart from Eared Grebes when both are in winter plumage can tie even experienced birders in knots. They’re both small with long straight beaks and seem identical at a distance. Hence it’s with shaky fingers that I type the “Eared” label on these birds, spotted early morning on the North Basin, very near the eastern shore of the park.

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

The tells are several. The eared has a dark patch below the eye. Its lower mandible curves slightly upward near the tip. The tip of the beak is dark. This bird meets those criteria.

On the water at the same time and not far away was this bird:

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Note: no dark patch below the eye. Tip of the beak has downward slope and is lighter color. This is a Horned Grebe. I also noticed that the horned have a pronounced red line connecting the eye to the beak, where the eared don’t. That isn’t in the reference materials I looked up and may just apply to these particular birds, but I thought it was worth noting.

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