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617 WESTERN GREBES
The largest grebe species in North America, western grebes are very social and nest in colonies of hundreds on shallow lakes or swamps and marshes. They are powerful swimmers and will quickly dive at any threat of danger. During winter, western grebes are found mostly on saltwater bays, and during breeding season, on freshwater wetlands where vegetation provides cover, nesting material and food. Western Grebes engage in elaborate "rushing" courtship displays. As though in a race, two birds repeatedly rear up and patter across the water's surface. Then they dive, emerge, and swim calmly side by side. At the turn of the 20th Century, tens of thousands of Grebes were killed for their feathers. With protection, their populations have recovered. Grebes and other water birds are very sensitive to changes in water quality on their breeding wetlands, which can result from grassland conversion and agricultural runoff.