“Great” is right – the head and neck feathers look positively extravagant, so much so that the bird was almost hunted to extinction in the UK in the 19th century, when the feathers adorned women’s hats and even underwear. The young birds look striking, too, if rather mis-matched with their black and white stripes, and you’d have to be quite the cynic to not enjoy the sight of them hitching a ride on their parents’ backs. However one of the best sights in UK ornithology is the adults elaborate symmetrical mating dance, starting with some Bez-like head movement and finishing with them rising up in the water with a symbolic offering of weed (not the Bez kind). Apparently, in a typical brood of two, each parent identifies a favourite, which they alone will care for and teach. You don’t often see these grebes in flight – they dive to escape – and I saw mine at Knotford Nook.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE
Updated: Apr 6, 2021