Western grebe

Western grebe
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Podicipediformes
Family: Podicipedidae
Genus: Aechmophorus
Species: A. occidentalis
Binomial name
Aechmophorus occidentalis
(Lawrence, 1858)
Range of A. occidentalis      Breeding range     Year-round range     Wintering range
  • Aechmophorus lucasi
    Miller, 1911
  • Aechmophorus occidentalis lucasi
    Miller, 1911
  • Aechmophorus occidentalis occidentalis
    (Lawrence, 1858)

The western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis[2]) is a species in the grebe family of water birds. Folk names include "dabchick", "swan grebe" and "swan-necked grebe".

Western grebe fossils from the Late Pleistocene of SW North America were described as a distinct species,[3] but later ranked as a paleosubspecies Aechmophorus occidentalis lucasi.[4] More recent study found them to fall within the variation now known to exist in today's birds.[5][6]


Out of the water

The western grebe is the largest North American grebe. It is 55–75 cm (22–30 in) long, weighs 795–2,000 g (1.753–4.409 lb) and measures 79–102 cm (31–40 in) across the wings.[7][8][9] It is black-and-white, with a long, slender, swan-like neck and red eyes. It is easily confused with Clark's grebe, which shares similar features, body size, behavior and habitat, and hybrids are known.

The western grebe has black around the eyes and a straight greenish-yellow bill whereas the Clark's grebe has white around the eyes and an up-turned bright yellow bill. The downy young of Western are grey; Clark's downy young are white.


There are two subspecies of the western grebe:


Western grebes nest in colonies of hundreds on large inland lakes, sometimes using coastal marshes, in western North America. It has a spectacular courtship display; two birds will rear up and patter across the water's surface. Northern birds migrate west to coastal ocean in winter; birds in the southwest and Mexico may be permanent residents.

Food and feeding

This bird dives for carp, herring, mollusks, crabs, and salamanders.


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Aechmophorus occidentalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. Etymology: Aechmophorus, "spear-bearer", from Ancient Greek aichme (a spear) + phoros (one who bears something around), in reference to its bill; occidentalis: Latin for "western".
  3. Miller, Loye H. (1911). "Additions to the avifauna of the Pleistocene deposits at Fossil Lake, Oregon". University of California Publications, Bulletin of the Department of Geology. 6: 79–87.
  4. Howard, Hildegarde (1946). "A review of the Pleistocene birds of Fossil Lake, Oregon". Carnegie Institution of Washington Publications. 551: 141–195.
  5. Jehl, Joseph R. Jr (1967). "Pleistocene Birds from Fossil Lake, Oregon" (PDF). Condor. 69 (1): 24–27. doi:10.2307/1366369. JSTOR 1366369.
  6. Storer, Robert W. (1989). "The Pleistocene Western Grebe Aechmophorus (Aves, Podicipedidae) from Fossil Lake, Oregon: A comparison with Recent material" (PDF). Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan. 27 (12): 321–326.
  7. Western Grebe. All About Birds
  8. CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  9. Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Western Grebe.
Wikispecies has information related to: Aechmophorus occidentalis
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/8/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.