Loons and Grebes of Columbia County, Oregon

Loons and grebes are active predators, preferring open water as they dive and chase their prey underwater. Many species have distinctly different breeding and winter coloration; both are shown here for clarity although in some cases only the transition from breeding is still visible by the time the bird winters in Oregon.

Common Loon (breeding) – A large loon with a thick bill. Checker pattern on back during breeding season. Breeds in Canada/Alaska, mating monogamously for life. (photo © Liz Osborn)
Common Loon (winter) – Identified in winter by thick black bill and a spur of white that reaches towards back of neck. Winters in lakes and streams along the coast. (photo © Patty Teague)
Red-throated Loon (breeding) – Rust-red front of neck front and solid black body in breeding season. A small loon that often holds its thin black bill high. (photo © Stephen Petersen)
Red-throated Loon (winter) – Straight-edged white on neck without spur and a thinner bill than Common Loon. Mostly winters on coast, rarely seen in our area. (photo © Patty Teague)
Pacific Loon (breeding) – Barred (not checkered) back during breeding season and thin bars up neck. Usually found on coast and very rarely spotted inland. (photo © Samuel Brinker)
Pacific Loon breeding oregon columbia county
Pacific Loon (winter) – Straight-edged white on neck without spur and thinner bill than Common Loon. Less white on face/neck than Red-throated Loon and less white speckling on back. (photo © Phil Kahler)
yellow-billed loon oregon columbia county
Yellow-billed Loon (breeding) – Especially thick, yellow bill. An arctic-breeding species in northern Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, considered near-threatened and almost never seen here. (photo © Robert Weeden)
yellow-billed loon jwinter oregon columbia county
Yellow-billed Loon (winter) – Our largest loon, somewhat more blocky head than other loons. Unique in yellow bill (pale in winter) and lighter neck. (photo © Nik Borrow)
Western Grebe winter oregon columbia county
Western Grebe – Our largest grebe, with a long slender neck, slender yellow bill, and red eye. Plumage similar year-round, with black cap that goes below eye. (photo © Jeff Skrentny)
Clark's Grebe winter oregon columbia county
Clark’s Grebe – Black cap stays above eye. Brighter orange bill than Western Grebe. Like the Western Grebe, cannot walk on land as its feet are positioned for swimming only. (photo © Matt Hunter)
Red-necked Grebe (breeding) – Unique red neck in breeding season, goes all the way around unlike the Red-throated Loon. A rare, mostly winter visitor here. (photo © Paul Reeves)
Red-necked Grebe (winter) – Smaller body, shorter neck, and thicker bill than Western or Clark’s Grebe. Neck is grayish with less white. Eye is black. (photo © Aaron Liston)
Horned Grebe (breeding)– Strong beige tuft behind eye. Neck is reddish to gray in breeding season rather than black (bird in photo is transitioning to winter coat). (photo © Ken Chamberlain)
Horned Grebe (winter) – Smaller with a shorter, darker bill than Red-necked Grebe and a red eye. Clear line between light and dark color on head. Prefers open water like most grebes. (photo © Drew Henderson)
Eared Grebe (breeding) – Small grebe with a black head/neck and remarkable beige tuft behind eye that fans out (unlike Horned Grebe which goes straight back). (photo © akiralobo)
eared grebe winter oregon columbia county
Eared Grebe (winter) – A dark smuge on the cheek rather than the clean line between dark/white on the head of other grebes. Very rarely seen in our area. (photo © Steve Dimock)
Pied-billed Grebe winter oregon columbia county
Pied-billed Grebe (breeding) – Our smallest grebe, shorter bill than any other. Bill has a dark bar during the breeding season. By far our most common grebe year-round. (photo © Richard Tehan)
Pied-billed Grebe (winter) – In winter is browner than other grebes, with less white on face and a shorter, thicker bill. Tends to stay along the edges of open lakes and marshes. (photo © Jim Johnson)

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