© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Kari Pihlaviita, Jouko Lehmuskallio, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.
Great Crested Grebe
- Family: Grebes – Podicipedidae
- Appearance: A long-necked grebe with a distinctive crest (absent in winter plumage). In flight appears pale, slender, slightly back heavy, and unstable, with rapid wingbeats.
- Size: Length 46–51 cm, wingspan 59–73 cm, weight 1.3–2 kg.
- Nest: A floating raft made of dead vegetation anchored to aquatic plants.
- Breeding: 3–6 eggs laid in May, incubated by both parents for 25–29 days. Young learn to fly in 71–79 days, and also become independent of their parents after 9–11 weeks.
- Occurrence: Breeds around lakes and sea bays where aquatic plants with aerial shoots are abundant. Also found in other marine waters during migration. Range in Finland extends as far north as Southern Lapland. Breeding population estimated at 28,000–47,000 pairs. Numbers have declined.
- Migration: Nocturnal. Flies south from August, returning in early spring soon after the ice cover on lakes and the sea thaws. Some birds migrate by swimming long distances at sea. Winters in Western Europe and around the Mediterranean.
- Diet: Fish (mainly Roach and Bleak), insects, crustaceans, molluscs and tadpoles.
- Calls: A cackling “kek-kek-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke”, a harsh howling “ker-ker-ker” and a loud call reminiscent of a pig squealing.
- Endangerment: Near threatened, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.
In their summer plumage Great Crested Grebes have long narrow necks that are white in front and dark brown behind. Two black tufts rise from their dark caps, and their white faces are lined with wide reddish brown wide cheek tufts. Their backs are dark brown, their flanks and are a lighter brown and they have white underparts. In flight they look slender, and white patches are visible on both the leading and trailing edges of their wing bases. Their legs are yellowish grey, toes are lobed. Bills are yellowish brown, and irises are red.
Juveniles generally resemble adults, except for their heads, which have black and white patterning and no crests. Their caps and the backs of their necks are dark, and they have a dark stripe above their eye and a second dark stripe below the eye which continues indistinctly onto the side of the throat. Their irises are orange. Great Crested Grebes’ winter plumage resembles their summer colouring, but they have no ear or cheek tufts.
Great Crested Grebes are very noisy birds. Breeding pairs perform a complex courtship display that includes a “penguin dance”, where the birds stand up erect from the water facing each other. Parents often carry their young fledglings on their backs or under their wings, even while diving.