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Clark’s Grebe Identification

Clarks Grebe

Clark’s Grebe  —  Length: 25 inches,  Wing span: 24 inches

Formerly considered to be the same species as the Western Grebe, the Clark’s Grebe attained full species status based on mating preferences and genetic studies. One behavioral difference between the two species is a tendency for Clark’s Grebes to more often spring forward during a dive.

Differences in bill color as well as one seemingly minor difference in call likely contribute to Clark’s Grebes being able to recognize one another and avoid Western Grebes while courting, even though the courtship displays of the two species appear to be identical.

A large, long-necked grebe with a long, pointed bill.  The Clark’s Grebe is boldly patterned in black and white, with a black back, hind neck, and crown, and white underparts. The black on the head does not encircle the red eye, and its bill is orange-yellow. White secondaries.

Clark's Grebe with fish

Winter adults have black nearing the eye, while summer adults have a white line above the eye. Long, thin bill has is orange. Photograph © Tom Grey.

Pair of Clark's Grebes

Young riding the back of the adult. Photograph © Tom Grey.

Clark's Grebe with young

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Western and Clark's Grebes

Clark’s Grebe, in the back, and the similar Western Grebe in the front. Notice the differences in bill color.  The black cap extends below the eye on the Western Grebe.  Photograph © Tom Grey.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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