Great-crested Grebe

So I decided the other day to look back through the pictures that I’d taken on my trip to the UK several years ago–I knew that I had pictures of at least the mute swan, and I wanted to see if I possibly forgotten to try to identify the rest of the brids.

Short answer–yes, I did forget to try to identify the rest of the birds I had gotten pictures of, but have spent several hours over the past few days looking up various bird families to see which members could be spotted within London during the late fall.

Which brings us to this wonderful little immature great-crested grebe that I spotted on a walk through Kensington Gardens.

Immature great-crested grebe

So grebes are divided into two ‘groups’: the ‘Old World’ grebes and the ‘New World’ grebes, and the great-crested grebe falls in the ‘Old World’ grebe group.

If one looks at the size of ‘Old World’ grebes–the great-crested grebe is the largest. They are about 19 inches in length, with about a 26-inch wingspan, and weighs on average 2.6 pounds.

The adults are unforgettable and hard to miss during the summer with their head and neck decorations. The reddish-orange plumes actually start to develop during the winter months and are full developed by mid-late spring. In addition the adults also have black crests on the crown of their heads.

After mating season, the adults have a mottled brown appearance with a white neck and breast, that is still off set by the black crest.

The young are distinctive as well–they have black and white striped heads that fade as they mature.

In terms of distribution, there are three subspecies that have different geographical ranges within the ‘Old World’.

The ‘Old World’ geographical ranges of the great-crested grebe. Map modified from map provided by birds of the world

So if you look to the map, you can see that the African and Australian/South Asian subspecies are mostly residential–though there is some migration. Also the range for the Australian/South Asian subspecies overlaps with some wintering areas of the European/Palearctic subspecies.

The European subspecies can be found throughout most of the Palearctic region (which is the largest biogeographical realm; stretching across all of Eurasia, North Africa, the Middle East (with the exception of majority of the Arabian Peninsula), Central and Easter Asia). It is a year-round resident in areas with mild climates, but will migrate from the colder climates in the winter to warmer climates around the coasts. It is absent from the desert regions (with the exception of some spots along the coast of North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea).

Since they’re water birds–that is the best place to try to spot them, on the water. I managed to luck out and et this picture of an immature grebe, and since it was only a brief visit to the country–I don’t know of any other spots to try to spot them.

In terms of their diets, the diet of the great-crested grebe is similar to the diet of ‘New World’ grebes–it is focused primarily on fish, but they will supplement their diet with crustaceans, insects, and small amphibians (such as frogs or newts).

Other interesting tidbits about the great-crested grebe:

Like the cranes and egrets in the New World, the great-crested grebe was almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s for their mating plumes (which would adorn the hats of the wealthy).

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was started in the late 1800s to help protect various bird species found within the UK and help save them from extinction (and the great-crested grebe is one of the success stories).

My photography goals for this species is to travel abroad again to either the UK (or somewhere within Europe), Africa and Australia to try to get a picture of all three subspecies in their mating (or winter) colors. In addition maybe get a picture of a parent giving a ride to some youngsters.

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