The Western grebe (Aechmorphorus occidentalis) breeds, often in colonies of several hundred, across western North America, preferring freshwater lakes and ponds with open water and emerging vegetation. They winter in brackish water or saltwater along the Pacific Coast.
With a black back and face in stark contrast to its white neck and underside, the Western grebe is, to me, an elegant bird. Its long swan-like neck adds to the effect. The long, thin, yellow bill and red eye add interest.
An excellent swimmer and diver, the Western grebe eats mostly fish, which it spears or captures in its bill. Sometimes it will also eat bottom-dwelling crustaceans and worms. Small prey it swallows underwater but brings larger prey to the surface to eat.
The Western grebe’s legs are located far back on its body making walking difficult. Since it is awkward on land, the Western grebe spends most of its time in the water.
Courtship occurs entirely in the water. The male and female will move around in synchrony. They also raise their bodies out of the water and patter across the surface side by side.
Leonard and I recently spent a morning on the Tule River (Shasta County CA) where these pictures were taken. Many pairs were swimming together in synchrony, but we did not witness any Western grebes rushing across the water that day.