Saturday, 28 May 2016

Bird of the week - Great crested grebe

This is the best time of year for watching great crested grebes because the chicks have hatched and are taking piggy back rides.  The sexes are said to look alike but these two are noticeably different in appearance.  I would have guessed that the bird with the punk hairstyle is the male but comparing with my photos earlier in the year it was the other one offering pondweed.  That would make this the male.

And this the female.  I'm not sure about it though.

The chicks' colouring is amazing - pin-striped suits and a pink heart on the forehead.

This pair has three chicks.

Earlier in the year the two adults were performing a courtship dance with the male offering pondweed to the female. Not a very extravagant gift but it obviously did the trick.

He also caught a fish but wisely kept that for himself.

Great crested grebes were almost wiped out in this country in the 19th century because they were hunted for their feathers and skins.  The population was reduced to around 50 pairs but they have made a comeback and there are now around 5000 breeding pairs in the UK.

Great crested grebes were common in Thomas Bewick's day.  He wrote "These birds are met with in almost every lake in the northern parts of Europe, as far as Iceland, and southward to the Mediterranean; they are also found in various parts of America.".  He drew his grebe standing on land - something they don't often do.

Although Bewick said the birds were found in America I can't find any evidence that they are now.  However, John James Audubon did paint the great crested grebe.  I think his painting shows winter and summer plumage.

You can listen to Bill Oddie's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on great crested grebe here.  Watch BBC video of the great crested grebe here.  And watch video of the courtship dance here.

No comments:

Post a Comment