Grebes and loons

Since I got no takers for my Western gull mystery, I figured I would now ask if you could give me a hand with the following grebe and loon ID. Both photos were taken last month (January 2014) on the Pacific coast, near Vancouver (a few steps from here, in fact). Keep in mind both birds were very far away, the light was quite bad and I had to severely crop both photos (which explains the fact they are grainy). BTW, this is the highest resolution possible.

The first photo is of a grebe. In my book (National Geographic, 6th ed.), they say this is a “paler winter” adult. The main clue: This bird clearly has a flat crown.

The second photo is of a loon. In this case, many questions arise: Are those scales or speckles on the back? Are their any thick or thin “neck straps”? What colour is the bill? How extensive is the white area on the face? In this case, I believe we are faced with a second year bird that is just completing its transformation to full adulthood.

Grebe-Vancouver_BC-January_2014 Loon-Vancouver_BC

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3 responses to “Grebes and loons

  1. Despite the fact that I live on the Gulf Coast, the Gulls are killers and I was strapped for time. Got a couple quick guesses here, but a “Nay” will send me for more thorough research. Western Grebe and Red-throated Loon. I don’t know about the Grebe because it doesn’t look like it will make it up to Vancouver, but …

    • As hard as the gulls are to identify on the Eastern seaboard, the ones on North America’s Pacific board are even worse, especially since they tend to mix things up with all sorts of funky hybrids. It is telling that people actually have a name for these “mutts.” With respect to the loon: Excellent work ID’ing the RTLO! However, this grebe’s bill is not yellow, so it cannot be a WEGR (and yes, we do see these here from time to time). I will give you a clue: it is either a HOGR or a EAGR. The flat top should tell you which it is.

  2. EAGR. It has a slightly upturned bill which is more slender than HOGR. Closer reading while trying to ID the Grebe reveals that the “horns” and ears” are only distinguishing characteristics during breeding season.