The Great Crested Grebe
, Podiceps cristatus
is a member of the grebe
family of water birds.
The Great Crested Grebe is 46-51 cm long with a 59-73 cm wingspan. It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. The adults are unmistakable in summer with head and neck decorations. In winter, this is whiter than most grebes, with white above the eye, and a pink bill. It is the largest European grebe.
The young are remarkable because their heads are striped black and white, much like zebras. They lose these markings when they become adults.
The Great Crested Grebe breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes. The subspecies P. c. cristatus
is found across Europe
. It is resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates
from the colder regions. It winters on freshwater lakes and reservoirs or the coast. The African
subspecies P. c. infuscatus
and the Australasian
subspecies P. c. australis
are mainly sedentary.
The Great Crested Grebe has an elaborate mating display. Like all grebes, it nests on the water's edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually two eggs
are laid, and the striped young are sometimes carried on the adult's back.
Young grebes are capable of swimming and diving almost at hatching.
The Crested Grebe feeds mainly on fish, but also little crustaceans
and little frogs.
This species was hunted almost to extinction in the United Kingdom in the 19th century for its head plumes, which were used to decorate hats. The RSPB was set up to help protect this species, which is again common.
- Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern