Bird of the Week

Posted Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the western grebe.

Elegant is an adjective commonly applied to the western grebe. Both sexes of this water bird have long, slender necks and cobra-like heads. Colored black from the base of the bill, through the red eye and down the back to the tail, which is offset by white from the chin through the belly, they are only confused with the similar Clark’s grebe.

Western grebes breed on freshwater lakes with vegetation at the edges suitable for building and hiding their floating nests. They are adept at diving and eat mainly fish.

They can be found in large numbers in the spring and summer on Lake Hatcher and Navajo Reservoir, where their calls resound across the water. Grebe pairs are feeding young on Lake Hatcher now. In winters when areas of open water remain on local lakes, some western grebes remain, but most winter in the Pacific saltwater coastal areas.

Western grebes perform elaborate courtship displays entirely on water. A pair will mimic head and neck movements, rise up and rush on feet across the top of the water, and end with a dive, all in synchrony. They may also display nesting material to each other in an upright dance to seal their pair bond.

Because these birds inhabit our fishing lakes, they are especially vulnerable to careless disposal of fishing line and boating practices, which flush them off the nest.

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