Great Crested Grebe
The Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), is a member of the grebe family of water birds. It breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes. The subspecies P. c. cristatus is found across Europe and Asia. 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 non-migratory.
The Great Crested Grebe is 18 to 20 inches long with a 23.25 to 28.75 inch 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.
Like all grebes, the Great Crested Grebe 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, insects 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.
Photo By Marek Szczepanek