Clark’s Grebes

It won’t be long before the high, scratchy kweea kweea calls of Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii) are heard in Utah’s Bear River National Wildlife Refuge if they haven’t already arrived. I haven’t been to Bear River NWR in a while. (I checked on the Bear River NWR site and at least 18 Western Grebes and 16 Clark’s Grebes have been seen there recently)

Clark's Grebe at Bear River National Wildlife RefugeClark’s Grebe at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I think that Clark’s Grebes are striking birds with their long graceful necks, black crowns, sharp bright yellow to orange-yellow bills, lovely white, gray and black plumage and those brilliant cherry-red eyes.  Clark’s Grebes nest at Bear River NWR, they build floating nests with emergent vegetation. The young are able to swim not long after hatching and like other grebe young they do ride on the adult’s backs.

Clark’s Grebes are rarely seen in flight because they dive and swim to get away from predators and they only migrate at night. I’d still love to see one in flight and capture their mating display called “rushing”.


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17 comments to Clark’s Grebes

  • Beautiful shot of the Clark’s Grebe Mia. I love these birds and am so lucky that they breed nearby in Northern California. In case you or your readers haven’t seen one of my favorite videos of the grebe dance was done by the BBC and can be seen on youtube here. Unfortunately, they have shortened the video which used to show a much lengthier version.

  • Mia, do you know if the Clark’s Grebes have identical courtship rituals to the Western Grebes? That’s still something I look forward to seeing in person. I’ve seen just one Western Grebe engaging in what can only be described as a spastic version of a courtship dance. It was so bad, I worried for his well-being but a bird expert assured me he was fine, just a little off kilter.

    • Ingrid, according to Birds of North America Western and Clark’s Grebes do have identical courtship rituals with the exception of their advertizing calls, one has a single note and the other a double note.

      The courtship ceremonies in which these birds perform a series of displays in ritualized, apparently mechanical, sequences are among the most complex known in birds.
      Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that, with one exception, the rituals of these two species are identical. The exception is the number of notes, one or two, in the Advertising call; yet this, plus differences in bill color and facial pattern, are enough for individuals to recognize birds of their own species and to choose them as mates. Discovery of this preferential mating led to several valuable studies of the degree of relationship between the two forms and to their recognition as distinct species rather than color phases of the same species.

  • What a lovely bird, I’ll have to watch for this one, thanks for sharing.

  • What a gorgeous grebe! Love that red eye!

  • This is one cool looking bird Mia. Thanks so much for sharing this. Carol

  • Another of your great photos, Mia. I have never seen a Clark’s Grebe. We do get get the Pied-billed, the Eared, and the occasional Horned Grebe. All of them are fascinating birds.

  • Lovely shot! One of these days I need to make it out that way…

  • Love the red eye, black cap, and blue in the ripples.
    The Clark’s Grebe is high on my list of birds/photos to acquire.