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Great crested grebe

 

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebe
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Podicipediformes
Family: Podicipedidae
Genus: Podiceps
Species: P. cristatus
Binomial name
Podiceps cristatus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Range of P. cristatus      Breeding range     Resident range     Wintering range

The great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) is a member of the grebe family of water birds noted for its elaborate mating display.

Contents

  • Description 1
  • Distribution 2
  • Behaviour 3
  • Gallery 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Description

The great crested grebe is the largest member of the grebe family found in the Old World, with some larger species residing in the Americas. They measure 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long with a 59–73 cm (23–29 in) wingspan and weigh 0.9 to 1.5 kg (2.0 to 3.3 lb).[2][3] It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. The adults 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.

The young are distinctive because their heads are striped black and white. They lose these markings when they become adults.

Distribution

Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden, Germany

The great crested grebe breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes. The subspecies P. c. cristatus is found across Europe and Asia. It is resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates from the colder regions. It winters on freshwater lakes and reservoirs or the coast. The African subspecies P. c. infuscatus and the Australasian subspecies P. c. australis are mainly sedentary.

Behaviour

The great crested grebe has an elaborate mating display. Like all grebes, it nests on the water's edge, since its legs are set relatively far back and it is thus unable to walk very well. Usually two eggs are laid, and the fluffy, striped young grebes are often carried on the adult's back. In a clutch of two or more hatchlings, male and female grebes will each identify their 'favourites', which they alone will care for and teach

Unusually, young grebes are capable of swimming and diving almost at hatching. The adults teach these skills to their young by carrying them on their back 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 great crested grebe feeds mainly on fish, but also small crustaceans, insects and small frogs.

This species was hunted almost to extinction in the United Kingdom in the 19th century for its head plumes, which were used to decorate hats and ladies' undergarments. The RSPB was set up to help protect this species, which is again a common sight.

The great crested grebe and its behaviour was the subject of one of the landmark publications in avian ethology: Julian Huxley's 1914 paper on The Courtship‐habits of the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus).[4][5]

Gallery

References

  1. ^  
  2. ^ "Great crested grebe videos, photos and facts – Podiceps cristatus". ARKive. Retrieved 27 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Burnie, D.; Wilson, D.E., eds. (2005). Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult.  
  4. ^ Burkhardt Jr, R.W. (1992). Huxley and the rise of ethology. Julian Huxley. Biologist and statesman of science. Houston, Texas: Rice University Press. pp. 127–149. 
  5. ^ Huxley, J.S. (September 1914). "33 The Courtship‐habits* of the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus); with an addition to the Theory of Sexual Selection". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.) 84 (3): 491–562.  

External links

  • Ageing and sexing (PDF) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta & Gerd-Michael Heinze
  • Great crested grebe videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
  • Great Crested Grebe Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds
  • Podiceps cristatus in the Flickr: Field Guide Birds of the World
  • Podiceps cristatus on Avibase
  • BTO BirdFacts – Great-crested Grebe
  • Podiceps cristatusBirdLife species factsheet for
  • Great crested grebe photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
  • Audio recordings of Great crested grebe on Xeno-canto.
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