Grebe Dating

More than 75 big grebes gathered in the North Basin for several days, most of them the Clark’s variety. A few weeks earlier I had the opportunity to film another flock of them in their mating ritual, and now these were at it as well. Most of them, to be accurate, spent the daylight hours sleeping. But a few had their necks up, some were preening, and a small number felt amorous.

Grebe courting, as I watched, was a trial-and-error kind of game, maybe like speed dating. I saw several pairs start up with the synchronized neck dance, and after a some repetitions, decide never mind, and start preening, or tuck in the neck and go to sleep.

Several times I saw parties of three approach one another, do the dance, and then break up. In one sequence, captured in the video, a bird is pairing with the bird in front, but then suddenly turns around and does the climactic water-walking sequence with a bird that was following.

The male is said to have a slight crest on the peak of its head, distinguishing it from the female, but at a distance and with the birds in motion this feature was not remarkable.

The rituals I observed were only foreplay. If actual mating went on, I did not see it. These birds nest on inland lakes and raise their young there.

Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii)

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