The Great Crested Grebe is the largest member of the grebe family, 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. 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. It is the largest European grebe.The young are distinctive because their heads are striped black and white. They lose these markings when they become adults.
Habitat and Distribution
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.
The Crested Grebe feeds mainly on fish, but also small crustaceans, insects and small frogs.
The Great Crested Grebe nests on the water's edge. This is because 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. Young grebes are capable of swimming and diving almost at hatching.