We saw a lone bird swimming and diving in the area off the west shore of the lake just above the Hwy 44 bridge - a little way from the Surf Scoters. At first, it was swimming with its neck tucked down and I thought it was a Loon. When it became alert, however, it was clear that it had a longer neck and was probably a grebe. We followed it, keeping a safe distance, but this is the best photograph we could get. It didn’t panic when we approached but would simply dive when we entered its ‘no go’ zone.
Based on the fact that its bill was long, slightly upturned and gray, we identified it as a Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis). The only other bird that resembles the Western Grebe is Clarke’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii) which is very similar to the Western Grebe but has white in front of the eyes and a brighter yellow bill.
According to Sibley, the Western Grebe is rarely seen this far east although it has been reported in Alabama but not in Georgia. A Western Grebe was found in 1997. Eric Boehm sighted and photographed a Western Grebe on Lake Walter F. George Dam on the Alabama/Georgia border in 2006; the bird swam on both sides of the border.
So, this appears to be a rare sighting.
Click on an image to view a larger image
Photographs: Walter W. Knapp
- Lake Oconee: The Long Row, 2009 (Part 1)
- The Long Row: 2007 (Part 3)
Identification and Range Resource:
- Sibley, AD. 2000. National Audobon Society The Sibley Guide to Birds. p. 26. Alfred A Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-679-45122-6
- Wings Over Georgia: Western Grebe (1997)
- Georgia Birding and Nature: Western Grebe (2006)
The Cornell Institute of Ornithology - All About Birds:
--Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
-- Clarke’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)