It is the largest of the European grebes, with a long neck and a long, dagger-like beak. This shape of the beak is inherent in waterfowl, fish hunters, and indeed, grebes, unlike other grebes, catch much more fish than invertebrates. They eat from 3 cm sticklebacks to eels larger than 20 cm.
Where do grebes live
The great grebe requires a lot of plant-free water to hunt fish, so this species does not live in the vegetated pools that other species of grebes live in. A little vegetation on the shore is enough, its birds use it as an anchor for a nest.
Mating rituals of great grebes
These birds spend time outdoors so they are easy to observe, and their spectacular courtships were the subject of some of the earliest in-depth studies of bird behavior.
The most common maneuver is the “head shake”, in which the members of the couple swim towards each other, shake their heads from side to side. This ceremony is interrupted by the “plucking” of feathers. Toadstools, it seems from the outside, pluck feathers on the back of the chosen one, but in fact they just make head movements. Then come more complex manifestations of sympathy. The male and the female dive for underwater plants, tear out the stems, emerge and quickly swim towards each other. They meet chest to chest, rise out of the water, shake their heads from side to side, still holding the weed in their beaks.
After choosing a pair and completing a colorful courtship ritual, when the birds have already formed an alliance, they begin to lead a solitary lifestyle, lay eggs.
Features of growing chicks
Grebes have a surprisingly long breeding season. Eggs are laid by birds from February to October. A pair builds at least one nest. Auxiliary floating “platforms” birds build for other purposes, including mating.
During incubation, the sitting parent (both members of the pair incubate the eggs) leaves the nest if it detects a predator in the distance. The bird covers the eggs with algae, so they quickly change color from white to cloudy brown. This reduces the chance that the eggs will be seen by a predator.
Chicks are also at risk of being eaten if they are left in the nest for a long time without mom and dad, so they “stand on their feet” a few hours after birth. Parents carry small chicks on their backs, so it is easier for the whole family to swim away from the coast.
The chicks are striped, their color resembles the uniform of prisoners. They are excellent swimmers as soon as they hatch, but for safety and body heat purposes, juniors cling to the back of one of the parents, sit between the wings. They even hold onto their backs while an adult dives.
The young are fed by one parent while the brood sits on the back of the other. The peculiarity of the later upbringing is not in the teamwork of Grebes, but in the “distribution of the offspring”, while each parent receives custody of his part of the brood, ignoring other chicks. But sometimes older chicks from an earlier brood join the feeding of juniors, help either of the parents.
Great grebe in flight
Crested grebes are adapted to an aquatic lifestyle. Therefore, it is difficult for a great grebe to take to the wings, unlike, say, meadow or forest birds. When lifted into the air, she scatters for a long time, struggling to break away from the water surface. Therefore, the great grebe avoids small lakes and ponds.
Why do people like to watch big grebes
Grebes look graceful on the water, ornate plumage and stunning courtship rituals make them a favorite among aquatic lovers.