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Clark’s Grebe

Named in honor of John Henry Clark, these elegant waterbirds are common in the western side of the United States.

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.


Description of the Clark’s Grebe


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.  Length: 25 in.  Wingspan: 29 in.

See image at bottom of page for comparison of Clark’s and Western Grebes.

Clarks Grebe

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter adults have black nearing the eye, while summer adults have a white line above the eye.


Juveniles are mostly white, and immatures are similar to adults.


Lakes, marshes, and ocean bays.




Forages by diving underwater.


Breeds widely in the western U.S. and winters along the Pacific Coast and southwestern U.S.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Clark’s Grebe.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird’s wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species’ identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Clark’s Grebes often use springing dives in which they spring forward as they enter their dive.

Clark’s and Western Grebe’s were once considered to be the same species.


A two-syllable “kree-eek”call note is given.


Not normally attracted by birders.

Clark’s and Western Grebes are very similar.  Clark’s  is the bird in the background.


Similar Species

Western Grebe
Western Grebes have greenish-yellow bills and the black on their head often encloses the eyes. Both species shown below.

Common Loon

Might be confused with one of the loon species (in non-breeding plumage) by inexperienced birders.  Loons are larger with heavy bodies and heavier bills.


The nest is a floating mass of plant material anchored to emergent plants.

Number: 2-4.
Color: Bluish-white.

Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at 24 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) in minutes after hatching by climbing on to the back of a parent and remain with the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Clark’s Grebe

Bent will be added soon for this species.

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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