Clark’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii) is a large waterbird that breeds in western North America, from southern British Columbia to central Mexico. It is closely related to the Western Grebe, with which it was once considered the same species. Adults have a length of 22-29 inches and a wingspan of 31-36 inches. They weigh around 1.6-3.4 pounds, with males being slightly larger than females.
Clark’s Grebes have distinctive black-and-white plumage, with a black cap that extends down to the nape of the neck, a white face, and a black stripe running down the back of the neck. They have a long, pointed bill, which is yellow with a black tip. Their eyes are bright red. In flight, their wings are dark with white underwings, and their legs trail behind them.
Clark’s Grebes are migratory, breeding on large, freshwater lakes and marshes in the western United States and Canada, and wintering along the Pacific coast from Washington to Baja California, Mexico. During the breeding season, they perform an elaborate courtship display, in which both birds run across the water’s surface, side by side, with their necks stretched out and their bills pointed skyward. This behavior, known as “rushing,” helps to strengthen the pair bond.
Clark’s Grebes feed primarily on small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects, which they catch by diving from the surface of the water. They are excellent swimmers and divers, capable of remaining underwater for up to a minute at a time. During the non-breeding season, they may also feed in tidal estuaries and along the ocean shore.
Despite their striking appearance and graceful swimming ability, Clark’s Grebes face a number of threats, including habitat loss and disturbance from boating and other recreational activities. Conservation efforts, such as the protection of breeding sites and the implementation of guidelines for responsible recreation, are important for ensuring the survival of this beautiful species.