New York State Rarities - Western Grebe off Staten Island, New York 6-7 April 2002

On Monday 1 April 2002, Chris and Lauren Nuzzi discovered a Western Grebe on the ocean off Wolfe's Pond Park in Staten Island, Richmond County, New York. This species is less than annual in the state and I believe, the first in southern NY in 10 years. The grebe remains for at least a week and was enjoyed by many New York and New Jersey birders. All observers should send descriptions and their thoughts on the identification to NYSARC.

Here are some photographs of the bird as it fished and swam around in the company of some Horned Grebes, Bufflehead and Greater Scaup. On both days I visited, the bird kept to the same general area, some 200-250 yards off the beach. For this reason, the images are very small and poorly lit!

The grebe was much larger than the accompanying Horned Grebes and Bufflehead, with a long dagger-like bill and sharp contrast between white underparts and dark hindneck and cap. The mantle was grey and contrasted with the blacker tone to the neck. The dark cap appeared to extend over the eye. [Although not shown here, the head displayed the typical twin bulges are the rear when facing away.]

The above image taken in better light, shows the surprisingly bright yellow bill which may have fueled initial speculation that this might be a Clarke's Grebe or hybrid. The extent of the dark cap argues against the former, but the latter remains worthy of consideration.

During my observations the grebe was very active, constantly swimming around and diving for short periods. Once I saw it surface holding a small shell in its bill, which it eventually tossed aside. Often it would surface beneath one of the Horned Grebe, causing some alarm and once or twice forcing the smaller grebe to take flight!

Seth Ausubel has posted some more digiscoped photos of this bird.

Congratulations to Chris and Lauren Nuzzi for another excellent find from Wolfe's Pond Park. This site hosted one of last summers Great White Herons, another Nuzzi bird!

Photographs and page layout copyright of Angus Wilson© 2002 All rights reserved.
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