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Great Crested Grebe - BirdForum Opus

P. c. cristatus
Photo © by nigel pye
Rutland Water, England, April 2005
Podiceps cristatus


P. c. cristatus, adult non-breeding
Photo © by Chris Upson
River Orwell, Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, January 2009

Length 46–61 cm (18-24 in), wingspan 59-73 cm, weight 600-1500 g

  • Largest Old World grebe
  • Long neck
  • Long bill, blackish in summer, pinkish in winter

Adult breeding

P. c. australis, adult breeding
Photo © by Neil
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia, February 2010
  • Dark greyish brown above
  • White below
  • Rufous to dark brown flanks
  • Black crown and crest
  • Ear coverts form facial ruff, chestnut tipped with black
  • Black lores
  • Face, chin, throat and foreneck white
  • Black hindneck
  • Grey sides of neck
  • Red iris
  • Olive-green to yellow legs

Adult Non-breeding

  • Facial ruff and crest lost and become much duller and greyer
  • Black cap
  • Neck mostly white, with narrow dark line down rear side
  • Flanks white to pale brownish


African and Australasian birds show less seasonal variation, only attaining winter plumage for a short period if at all.


Similar to non-breeding adult, but has striped head


P. c. infuscatus, adult breeding
Photo © by CollinBax
Cape Town, South Africa, April 2011

Shows bold white scapulars and leading and trailing edges to wing.


A widespread Old World grebe breeding in Eurasia, Africa and Australasia.


Breeds across most of the continent from Iberia and the British Isles eastwards ranging north to central parts of Sweden and Finland and south to the Mediterranean coast and Turkey. Range extends eastwards across Asia to China and locally in Japan but absent from most of Arabia, India and south east Asia.


Breeds, or formerly bred, at a few scattered localities in the north in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia but more widespread, although discontinuously, south of the Sahara. Breeds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, and in the south in Namibia and South Africa.


P. c. cristatus, chick
Photo © by AlanR
Pittville Park, Gloucestershire, UK, September 2008

Range is confined mainly to the east in central an southern Queensland, New South Wales and southern South Australia, but also occurs in Tasmania and the south-western corner of Western Australia. In New Zealand occurs on South Island and most numerous in South Westland.

Resident in western Europe but migratory to the north and east and more widespread around the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas in winter. East Asian birds winter in southern Japan and southern China. African and Australian birds are resident, or nomadic following rainfall and avoiding areas affected by drought.



Winter plumage, subspecies cristatus
Photo © by Joe52
Bournemouth, Hampshire, December 2017

Three subspecies are usually recognised[1]:

  • P. c. cristatus:
  • P. c. australis:
  • P. c. infuscatus:
  • Sub-saharan Africa. Smaller and with darker flanks, and lacks white over eye.


Fresh or rarely brackish waters, usually medium-large with emergent vegetation, often on artificial reservoirs and gravel pits. May move to estuaries, sheltered bays and coastal inlets in winter.

East African birds breed mainly on mountain lakes.



Breeds April-September in Europe, throughout the year in Africa, and November-January in Australia.

Courtship display is lengthy, elaborate and involves paired dancing and ritualised gift-giving of bits of plant matter.

Nest is a heap of vegetation in reedbeds, sometimes anchored to emergent plants or on the bottom in shallow water.

Eggs: 4 (sometimes 3-6), white initially soon becoming stained (55 x 37mm, in Australia 50 x 35mm). Incubated by both sexes for 25-26 days. Young tended by both sexes, independent at 42 days but may remain with parents for up to 72 days. Single- or double-brooded.


Fish and aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans and molluscs caught in 30 second dives.


A range of barking, trumpeting, wailing and growling calls


Click on image to see full size


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved February 2016)

Recommended Citation

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