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Species Guide
A photo of a Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

The great crested grebe, Podiceps cristatus, is a water bird of the grebe family, notable for its striking black and white plumage and elaborate courtship displays. It is the largest grebe species found in the Old World, with some larger species in the Americas.

Identification Tips

Adults are unmistakable in summer with ornate head and neck decorations. In winter, they are whiter than most grebes, with a distinctive white above the eye and a pink bill. Juveniles can be identified by their black and white striped heads, which they lose upon reaching adulthood.


This species prefers vegetated areas of freshwater lakes for breeding.


The great crested grebe has three subspecies: P. c. cristatus in Eurasia, P. c. infuscatus in Africa, and P. c. australis in Australia, Tasmania, and the South Island of New Zealand. The European subspecies migrates from colder regions, while the African and Australasian subspecies are mainly sedentary.


The great crested grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver, pursuing fish underwater. Its mating display is particularly elaborate, involving synchronized dances and poses.

Song & Calls

The call of the great crested grebe is a loud barking "rah-rah-rah," complemented by a clicking "kek" and deep growls.


Both sexes build the nest at the water's edge, and the average clutch consists of four chalky-white eggs. Incubation is shared, starting with the first egg and lasting 27 to 29 days. The precocial young are capable of swimming and diving almost immediately and are taught by the adults.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet mainly consists of fish, supplemented by small crustaceans, insects, small frogs, and newts.

Conservation Status

The great crested grebe is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. Conservation efforts in places like New Zealand's Lake Wānaka have been ongoing since 2013. The species has also been a beneficiary of early protection efforts by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom.

Great Crested Grebe Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Great Crested Grebe Fun Facts

Did you know?
The Great Crested Grebe has a very complex mating ritual which is often referred to as a ballet.

Great Crested Grebes on Birda


More Grebes

A photo of a Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)

Clark's Grebe

Aechmophorus clarkii
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