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Life in Freshwater

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

see also DabChick (Little Grebe) below Great Crested Grebe carrying chick on back

This bird is 48 cm but tends to look quite small when swimming. On the other hand it looks extremely long in when in flight. This is the largest grebe. It has a long neck and its plumage changes between winter and summer. In winter its cheeks are whiter and there is a thin white line between the eye and the dark crown. It has ear tufts throughout the year but can become reduced in size. It also has a noticeable flat head.

This is a common resident which occurs in suitable waters except in far north Scotland and Scandinavia . In summer and winter it inhabits well vegetated freshwater lakes and ponds. In winter it can be found on open water and the sea.

ECOLOGY: The nest of the Great Crested Grebe is a floating heap of vegetation which is anchored to other plants. This bird is an excellent diver and when approached swims off or dives as opposed to flying. Its feet are heavily lobed to aid swimming and the leg is laterally compressed with serrated edges. The Great Crested Grebe feeds solely on fish. Its song is full of growling and moaning calls. Both sexes indulge in intense courtship displays with them rising out of the water facing each other. The displays are very variable. Both sexes incubate three to six eggs, and there are up to three broods. Young grebe chicks often ride on their parents backs when they are in the water and may even stay there while the parent dives.

Little Grebe or Dabchick (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

This is a widely distributed species but is easily missed because it is quite small, about 25 cms long. It is plump and quickly dives for invertebrates. It lives on sluggish rivers, ponds and lakes. The nest is a mass of dead rotting vegetation floating on the water. The decay warms the eggs and helps with incubation. Young ones are readily taken by pike.


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