So far, my favourite Edmonton bird-sighting, and my first lifer this year, was one Western Grebe who was in the company of three male Mallards. Wow! The three Mallards promptly disappeared (they swam to a nearby hidden shore), but the Western Grebe stayed put and continued looking in my direction. Since it was looking at me, I assumed it was swimming toward me but somehow it kept getting smaller on my camera screen. Oh! Of course! It was floating backwards with the river current! I kept watching and eventually, with a few underwater swims, it got closer again.
I’d seen Western Grebes in photos and four other grebe species in real life, but I was amazed by how large it was and how graceful its shape and markings were. How large is a Western Grebe? Well, I compared its measurements to that of a Red-necked Grebe, the second largest grebe I know, and their weight ranges are quite similar. Western Grebes are longer (tip of bill to tip of tail of a dead specimen), with most of this extra length coming from their long bills and necks. I put the length and weight ranges below, along with those for a Mallard. On average, the three have similar weights. Lengthwise, it looks like the order of increasing length is: Red-necked Grebe, Mallard and Western Grebe. This matches the order of “apparent largeness” I’ve observed.
Measurements from All About Birds
|Western Grebe||800-1800 g||55-75 cm|
|Red-necked Grebe||800-1600 g||43-56 cm|
|Mallard||1000-1300 g||50-65 cm|
I spotted my one-and-only, very-special Western Grebe while walking on trails that follow the Saskatchewan River, from Kinsmen Park to William Hawrelak Park. In most areas, dense, tall shrubs separate the trail from the river and a steep, muddy bank lies between the shrubs and the water. Occasionally, a narrow trail would squeeze between the shrubs and I would excitedly follow it to see what the river looked like at that point. After one of these squeeze-throughs, a Western Grebe appeared, not far from the shore. Wow!