Thursday, October 1, 2015

Clark's and Western Grebes at Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge

Do those red eyes freak you out just a little?
There are two brand new species on the blog today, the Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis), and the Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii). Can you tell which is which? We saw these marvelous waterbirds at the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge in Northern California near Klamath Falls. 
The two birds are very similar and for a long time were considered the same species. Later on, it was determined that they only rarely interbred, and hybrids were few. There are suggestions in some studies that the Clark's Grebe feeds in deeper water.
The birds live practically their entire lives in the water, diving for fish and crustaceans underwater (they were frustrating to photograph because the moment they came into focus they would dive and disappear). Their legs are almost useless on the ground. They spend the summer in these mountain refuges where they breed, but will migrate to the sheltered areas along the coast in winter.
Photo by Mrs. Geotripper
The main visual difference? The Western Grebe is black around eyes, while the Clark's Grebe has white. The bill of the Clark's tends to be a brighter yellow.

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