Family Grebes (Podicipedidae)

Least Concern

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)


French: Grèbe élégant German: Renntaucher Spanish: Achichilique común

Podiceps occidentalis


, 1858,

Fort Steilacoom, Washington


Formerly included A. clarkii, which was thought to be merely a colour morph, but the two forms were found to mate assortatively, and to use different advertising calls to attract their mates; hybrids in areas of contact seem to be rare. Name clarkii was first applied to a smaller southern race, including birds of both “colour morphs”, now classified as A. o. ephemeralis and A. c. clarkii. Distribution limits of all four races in the complex are not well established. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. o. occidentalis (Lawrence, 1858) – SW & SC Canada to W & NC USA; winters on Pacific coast from S British Columbia S to Baja California and Sinaloa.
  • A. o. ephemeralis Dickerman, 1986 – Mexican Plateau from N Chihuahua S to Valley of Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    51–74 cm; 550–1800 g. Large, long-billed, long-necked, white and black to dark grey-brown grebe lacking obvious crest on head. Nominate race in breeding plumage... read more


    Variety of calls recorded. Advertising call, given most frequently during breeding season, a harsh... read more


    Breeds on freshwater, slightly brackish or brackish marshes, lakes, reservoirs and ponds; prefers... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly fish, both freshwater and marine; also aquatic insects, especially corixid bugs (much more important in spring and summer than in... read more


    Laying May–Jul in N of range, but season more protracted in Mexico, with eggs May–Oct; single-brooded. Colonial, sometimes in... read more


    Primarily migratory; almost entire population of Canada and USA moves to non-breeding grounds along... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Nominate race locally common to locally abundant; S race ephemeralis not well known, probably at best uncommon. Insufficient... read more

    Recommended citation

    Llimona, F., del Hoyo, J., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 30 March 2020).