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Birds: Western Grebe

Walking along the Willamette River, the sighting of the Western Grebe is a joyful harbinger of spring in the Portland, Oregon area, as it is all along streams and rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The Western Grebe is a beautiful sight and it is bigger than most people imagine. The Western is the largest grebe in North America, measuring up to 30 inches long and weighing up to 4.4 pounds! Their wing span can measure up to 40 inches from tip to tip.

The Western Grebe is identified by it long black and white neck. It’s neck is slender and resembles the neck of a swan. It is also easily confused with the Clark’s Grebe which has similar features. What sets the Western Grebe apart is it green-yellow bill and a black ring around its red eyes. Folk names for the Western Grebe include the “dabchick,” “swan grebe,” and “swan-necked grebe.”

This bird dives underwater for up to several minutes foraging for food. Their favorite diet consists of carp, herring, mollusks, crabs, and salamanders.

Perhaps best known for their “walking on water” tricks, they have an elegant courtship that is worth seeing. Take the extra time searching on YouTube for a video clip of their aqua-acrobatics:


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