Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe - British Birds
Great crested grebes are handsome birds with a head like a feather duster, if you imagine the beak as the handle.
It is this ornate head plume which led to it being hunted for its feathers, almost leading to its extermination from the UK. The numbers are much more healthy now however with around 10,000 breeding pairs in our lakes, rivers and gravel pits.

Grebes dive under water to feed and also to evade predators, prefering an aquatic escape to an airborne one. On land they are clumsy because their feet are placed so far back on their bodies.

In February, mating pairs perform their elaborate courtship display. This involves a lot of beak-to-beak head shaking, to fluff out and enhance the beautiful crest feathers. Both the male and the female dive under the surface to fill their beaks with pondweed, then raise themselves out of the water, breast to breast, by paddling very rapidly. With the water frothing about madly at their feet, their bodies raised up like a couple of penguins, and their heads swinging from side to side, the whole display is quite a spectacle.

Great crested grebes nest on the water, and it's a rather flimsy construction, often perched in the fork of a partially submerged overhanging branch.

When the chicks hatch, they ride on their parents back for the first few weeks. The chicks are vulnerable to predators in the water, and so hitching a lift in this way offers them some safety.

Great crested grebes are found across the UK apart from northern Scotland and Cornwall. If you type 'Grebe' into the search engine on this website it will bring up some of the best places to see them.
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