Western vs. Clark's Grebe

My last post on something other than this blog was about the Kingbirds I saw in Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge back in June. This post continues the theme of comparing two species that I photographed in that location. This time it is Grebes: Western and Clark's.

These two Grebes are look-alikes. Well...mostly. As an easterner (within the United States :-), I was at first a little bamboozled by these two species. But just a tad of research and studying clarified the field mark that needed my attention: on the bird's face, where was the line between the black and the white? If that line was above the bird's eye, then call it a Clark's. Otherwise, call it a Western. Apparently you can also use bill color to help make the identification (according to my Peterson, a Western has a greenish yellow bill with a dark ridge, and a Clark's has a orange-yellow bill), but that field mark was a tad too subtle for me, especially under different light conditions and (usually) over a long distance.

Here are my two photos. The first is a Western and the second is a Clark's. The location of the eye relative to the line between the white and black feathers is very easy to see. Even better, I can see the difference in bill color in these photographs as well.

Western Grebe

Clark's Grebe

2 comments:

HANNIBAL said...

I don't know how you got so close! Awesome! Thanks for ID tips!

Todd Dixon said...

As you drive from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge visitor center to the actual refuge, the road crosses an irrigation canal. My theory is that the water flowing under the road concentrated the fish. There were two things fishing on the downstream side of the canal: some dude sitting in a lawn chair and the grebe. The I stood on the side of the road and decided to photograph the bird (instead of the dude). The bird would swim up to where the water flowed under the road, and then dive. Before he dove, he was pretty darn close to the road.

I got the Clark's within the refuge. I took that photo from inside my car, shooting through the "rolled down" passenger side window. My 100-400mm lens did all the work of getting close to that bird.