Western Grebe Weed Ceremony Behavior

Western Grebe with water weedsWestern Grebe with water weeds – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Western and Clark’s Grebes at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge have returned and I have been hoping to photograph some of their mating behaviors again. Mating displays for both species are elaborate and fascinating and include the Rushing Ceremony and the Weed Ceremony. While I was at the refuge yesterday I had hoped to photograph the Rushing Ceremony again but instead photographed what appeared to be a Western Grebe Weed Ceremony behavior that was incomplete or out of sequence.

Western Grebe close up with weedsWestern Grebe close up with weeds – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The mating display sequences in Western Grebes (Clark’s as well) are very predictable yet the behavior  I saw yesterday didn’t fit the norm. Typically when the the Rushing Ceremony occurs between a male and a female it may be followed by the Weed Ceremony where both sexes dive, bring up some water weeds in their bills then face each other with crests raised, necks extended and their bodies high out of the water and dance close to each other.

This Western Grebe and the grebe it was with didn’t rush but this one did have the weeds in its bill while it was close to the other grebe who did dive but came up without weeds. I did hear calls but couldn’t be sure which grebe was calling.

This all happened very quickly and I didn’t have time to remove my teleconverter or switch to FX mode so I could only do close ups of the grebe.

The behavior was very interesting to observe and photograph.

Head on Western Grebe with weedsHead on Western Grebe with weeds – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I don’t know why the Weed Ceremony behavior occurred out of sequence by not following a Rushing Ceremony. I had been photographing other grebes for several minutes that were east of this pair when I noticed this grebe with weeds in its bill. It might be that this particular grebe is going through its first breeding season and is inexperienced.

I especially like this last Western Grebe image with the raised crest and head on view of the bright red eyes.

Whatever the reason I was thrilled to see and photograph this behavior. I sure love what I do!

Life is good.



  1. Sarah Mayhew April 18, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Especially love the 3rd one!! Great expression. Love to watch their courtship behavior!!

  2. Elephant's Child April 18, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Intriguing. Love the ‘do’, and confirmation that ‘red-eye’ in photography is not always a bad thing.

  3. Larry Muench April 18, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Great photos! I love to watch them during this time of year also. I think they must have one of the most elaborate and fun to watch breeding behaviors of any birds. This and the sage grouse are my 2 favorites and I think I tend to like the grebes best because it is so varied.

  4. Ken Schneider April 18, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Very interesting behavior! Nice to see both species.

  5. Patty Chadwick April 18, 2015 at 6:06 am

    Interesting sequence…always amazed how those birds can look so elegant and goofy at the same time!!!

  6. Humming Bird Lover April 18, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Hi! Great photo’s! Love your working so hard to get such beautiful Photo’s! Have a specially good day!

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