The Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) is an aquatic diving bird noted for its elaborate mating display. It is the largest member of the grebe family found in the Old World, with some larger species residing in the Americas. These birds are excellent swimmers and divers and pursue their fish prey underwater.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
A piscivore is a carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. Piscivorous is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophagous. Fish were the die...
An insectivore is a carnivorous plant or animal that eats insects. An alternative term is entomophage, which also refers to the human practice of e...
An aquatic animal is an animal, either vertebrate or invertebrate, which lives in water for most or all of its life. It may breathe air or extract ...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Natatorial animals are those adapted for swimming. Some fish use their pectoral fins as the primary means of locomotion, sometimes termed labriform...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Serial monogamy is a mating system in which a pair bonds only for one breeding season.
Generally solitary animals are those animals that spend their time separately but will gather at foraging areas or sleep in the same location or sh...
Partial migration is when within a migratory species or even within a single population, some individuals migrate while others do not.
Adult birds 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. Juveniles are recognizable by their plumage, with their heads featuring alternating black and white stripes. They lose these markings when they become adults.
Great crested grebes are found across Europe and Asia, parts of southern and eastern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. These birds are resident in the milder west of their range but migrate from the colder regions. Populations in Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are mainly sedentary. Great crested grebes breed in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes, small pools, slow-flowing rivers, artificial water bodies, swamps, bays, estuaries, and lagoons. Wintering habitats include freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and sheltered coastal inshore waters such as brackish estuaries, and tidal lagoons.
Great crested grebes are diurnal birds and spend their day foraging, cleaning their plumage, and resting. They are excellent swimmers and divers, and pursue their prey underwater; they also may feed by submerging only their head. During the winter months, these birds are usually solitary but may sometimes gather in colonies of up to 5,000 individuals. Great crested grebes are highly aquatic birds and prefer to swim and dive rather than fly. They communicate with each other vocally using barking calls that sound like “rah-rah-rah”, clicking “kek” and a low growling “gorr”.
Great crested grebes are serially monogamous; they form pairs that usually stay together for one breeding season. These elegant birds have an elaborate mating display, in which pairs raise and shake their head plumes, approaching each other with weed in their bills, they then rise breast to breast in the water and turn their heads from side to side. Like all grebes, they nest on the water's edge, since their legs are set relatively far back and they are thus unable to walk very well. Pairs may nest singly or in loose colonies. The nest is built by the male and the female together; it is usually a platform of aquatic plant matter floating on water or it can be built from the lake bottom in shallow water. Females usually lay two eggs and incubate them about 25-31 days. Chicks are precocial and are capable of swimming and diving almost at hatching. The adults teach these skills to their young by carrying them on their backs and diving, leaving the chicks to float on the surface; they then re-emerge a few feet away so that the chicks may swim back onto them. The young fledge about 70 to 80 days after hatching but stay with their parents for 11 to 16 weeks. They usually reach reproductive maturity at 1-2 years of age.
Great crested grebes were hunted almost to extinction in the United Kingdom in the 19th century for their head plumes, which were used to decorate hats and ladies' undergarments. In New Zealand, these birds were historically hunted for food. Current threats to Great crested grebes include habitat loss due to urban development, modification of lakes, oil spills, and avian influenza.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Great crested grebe population size is around 915,000-1,400,000 individuals. The European population consists of 330,000-498,000 pairs, which equates to 660,000-997,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Great crested grebes are important predators of fish which includes most of their diet.