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Marshbirds and Shorebirds of North Dakota

Western Grebe

WESTERN GREBE Aechmophorus occidentalis L25" (64cm)

The western grebe is the largest of all North American grebes. Its striking black and white coloration, swan-like neck, and long bill makes it easy to identify. During the breeding season, the western grebe inhabits freshwater lakes that contain emergent vegetation such as cattails and bulrushes. The western grebe has elaborate courtship displays such as the "rushing ceremony". During this display, the male and female rise out of the water and run side-by-side with their necks arched and bills pointed upward. The western grebe usually nests in large breeding colonies but may nest in single pairs or in small groups. The nest is built by both the male and female and consists of a floating mass of vegetation anchored to submerged or emergent vegetation. The female lays 2-5 bluish white eggs with both sexes sharing incubation duties which last 23 days. After hatching, the downy chicks often ride atop their parents' backs. The diet of the western grebe includes a variety of fish, mollusks, salamanders, and aquatic insects. Note: The western grebe resembles the Clark's grebe except the bill is yellow-green and the black cap extends below the eye. The black cap of the Clark's grebe passes over the eye and its bill is yellow-orange.

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