WC was on a business trip to the San Francisco Bay area recently, and made time to snap a few photos of some of the local birds. Those birds included the lovely Western Grebe, with their spectacular eye and long, elegant necks.
The birds are starting to pair up, even though for almost all of them there is a long migration flight still to be made. The species migrates as far north as Central British Columbia; they do not, alas, breed in Alaska.
Until 1985, Western Grebes and their close cousins, Clark’s Grebes, were considered the same species. But they aren’t. The primary field mark for telling them apart is there the eye is in the black cap, or below it. Here, you can see the eye is well within the the black crown of the birds. Hence, Western Grebe. There are other field marks as well, but WC finds the location of the eye and the cap to be the most reliable.
Alaska has two other Grebe species. Interior Alaska hosts both Red-necked Grebes and the lovely Horned Grebes. So it was a special treat to be able to photograph Westerns.