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Gearing Up for Fall Migration: Part 4

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Western Grebe cruising through the waters. Photo by Matt Davis | AllAboutBirds

In conclusion of our migration series for Fall 2021, we will spotlight the Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis, and ways you can help migratory birds. Western Grebes are waterbirds that migrate to Orange County after breeding in more inland and freshwater locations within the US. Western Grebes won’t likely be seen flying as they migrate at night and rarely fly outside of migration. The average Orange County citizen can locate these unique night birds in the open ocean in large floating flocks. This bird is built for the water with its legs being set further back on its body allowing it to propel quickly underwater in search of food. It has distinct black and white plumage with its black cap acting as a mask over its red eyes. It has a sharp yellow bill with black markings. (Hint: don’t try to handle this bird without expert help as they will go for your eyes with their sharp bills). They are known, along with their close relative the Clark’s Grebe, to have quite the graceful courtship display where both males and females appear to walk or dance on the water's surface in sync with each other.

Long-billed Dowitchers foraging in the pond at Huntington Beach Central Park. Photo by Stacey Chartier-Grable

This unbelievable migration happens twice a year, every year, and is something to see. Important habitats including coastal dunes, salt, and freshwater wetlands, and more are such a crucial part of this flyway and they are dwindling at a record pace due to human encroachment, reduced habitat, water diversion, and pollution. In order to protect these habitats and species, we must all become aware of the importance of each habitat, the role it plays, and the ways in which we can help conserve, preserve, and protect them. You have already taken the first step to becoming more aware by visiting the OC Habitats website and blog and learning about migration. Viewing this migration and the unique creatures that are a part of it is another fun and important step to making a difference in protecting the species that migrate. To get really involved you can volunteer at your local nonprofits that support bird species like OC Habitats, Sea and Sage Audubon, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, or Newport Bay Conservancy. You can speak up to your local, regional, state, and federal government officials about ensuring protection for migratory species and the habitats they rely on. And you can turn off your outdoor lights at night to help birds navigate the night sky. Join the Lights Out movement and become part of the solution.

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