Eight years of the Grebe Project

Northern California chapters monitor grebes and educate the public about this fascinating, charismatic species.

Western Grebes. Photo: Andrew Lee/Audubon Photography Awards

Grebes are a distinct feature of Northern California lakes and wetlands, marked by their extravagant mating ritual of running on water. However, the Western grebe is climate endangered, and in California, Audubon research predicts that the Western grebe may lose up to 70% of its climate suitability range. Grebes in Northern California are also threatened by electricity and water demands, as they are highly dependent on a moderate “Goldilocks” water depths in lakes and reservoirs to raise their chicks.

Audubon California, and Redbud, Plumas, and Altacal Audubon are currently leading their eighth year of the grebe conservation effort, protecting the grebes of Northern California by raising awareness and educating the public.

Clark's Grebes family. Photo: Redbud Audubon

Redbud Audubon held a grebe exhibit booth at the Clear Lake Pear Festival, in which 3,000 people attended, and held a four-day Heron Days event, taking 289 people to see grebes in their natural habitats at Clear Lake on Audubon boat tours. Additionally, project manager Marilyn Waits gave talks to two local groups, and Redbud has maintained fishing-line recycling bins around Clear Lake. In total, three articles have appeared in local media!

Plumas Audubon held the second annual Grebe Festival to educate local residents and children about the importance and conservation of grebes. There were 40 total events, such as many field trips to explore local wildlife and social events such as the family social mixer. The Grebe Festival Spring Art Contest encouraged youth to participate in the festival and learn more about Grebes. Plumas Audubon also took ten children from a local youth program to Antelope Lake to learn about grebes.

Altacal Audubon hosted tables at the May Endangered Species Faire in Chico and at the 23rd Annual Salmon Festival at the Oroville Feather River Fish Hatchery. Altacal also held an exhibit at the July Summer Carnival at the Chico Creek Nature Center to educate young children about grebes. Finally, board member and natural resource scientist Dawn Garcia gave a talk at the Oroville Nature Center.

Photo: Altacal Audubon

Overall, Redbud, Plumas, and Altacal Audubon’s monitoring of the grebe populations have been successful. Redbud was able to count 5,075 grebe nests at Clear Lake. They extrapolated 1,151 juvenile grebes for the entire lake, an significant increase from the 704 estimated last year. Plumas Audubon, examining their local lakes, observed breeding at Eagle Lake for the first time since 2011! However, Lake Almanor and Antelope saw a decrease in adult and juvenile populations respectively.  Altacal Audubon looked at the Thermalito Afterbay, and unfortunately found lower grebe counts all-around this year.

We would like to thank Redbud, Plumas, and Altacal Audubon for their incredible work on grebe conservation, and hope that their continued efforts will inspire the public to take action and protect the grebes of Northern California!

By Maxwell Ho

Photo: Altacal Audubon

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