Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
Some of the Clark’s Grebes in the middle

These Western Grebes were not the main show. The main show was a flock of Clark’s Grebes out in the middle of the North Basin. But they were so far out that my images didn’t make me happy. Fortunately, the Clark’s apparently were having a closed event, where their Western cousins weren’t welcome. Or maybe the Westerns were feeling snobbish and didn’t want to mix with the Clark’s today. That’s unusual — I often see them flocking together. Whatever the reason, two Westerns stroked around separately, one north, one south, very much closer to the shore. They were taking advantage of the wind shelter. So they got the headline and the Clark’s got a mention. Success goes to those who show up …

Westerns and Clark’s are so similar that for decades, scientists thought they were just variations on the same species. Same shape, same behaviors, same bright red eyes. Regular readers of this blog know what to look for. Does the black cap on the head cover the eye? If it stops above the eye, Clark’s. If below Western. Also the bill: is it clear yellow? Clark’s. Muddy yellowish-gray: Western. Other than that there’s no hard differences between the two species, and occasional hybrids happen.

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

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