Grebes (Podicipediformes)

BIRDS /

An order of aquatic birds with a body length of 23 to 60 cm. The dense plumage is dark above and white or, less frequently, gray or rusty on the abdomen. The wings are short, and the tail is rudimentary. The legs are placed far back, the tarsi are laterally compressed, and the toes are webbed. The birds swim and dive well but walk poorly.

The order has one family (Podicipedidae), embracing six genera with 20 species. The birds are widely distributed and are absent only in polar regions and on some ocean islands. In northern regions the birds are migratory and often winter on seas and coastal waters. They nest in freshwaters, mainly lakes, and build nests from aquatic plants that float or grow in the shallows. A clutch contains two to eight dirty white eggs, which are incubated by both the male and female for 20 to 25 days. The nestlings are covered with whitish down with dark stripes and spots. The parents often carry their young on their backs or under their wings while they swim.

Further Information: Wikipedia

 Family Podicipedidae. Genus Podiceps

This Genus has representatives breeding in Europe, Asia, North and South America. Most northern hemisphere species migrate in winter to the coast or warmer climates.

They breed in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes, nesting on the water’s edge, since their legs are set too far back for easy walking. Usually two eggs are laid, and the striped young may be carried on the adult’s back.

All the genus are excellent swimmers and divers, and pursue their fish prey underwater.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) Copyright Peter Drury

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
Copyright Peter Drury

The Great Crested Grebe is 46–51 centimetres (18–20 in) long with a 59–73 centimetres (23–29 in) wingspan. 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 remarkable because their heads are striped black and white, much like zebras. They lose these markings when they become adults.

Where these can be seen: These birds arrive in Langstone Harbour in the Autumn. They spend much of the time offshore fishing.


Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) Copyright Peter Drury

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
Copyright Peter Drury

Also known as the Slavonian Grebe. It is a small grebe at 31–38 centimetres (12–15 in) long with a 46–55 centimetres (18–22 in) wingspan. Unmistakable in summer, the male’s plumage includes a black head with brown puffy earlike tufts along the sides of its face. It shows a deep red neck, scarlet eyes, and a small, straight black bill tipped with white. It rides high in the water.

Slavonian Grebes breed in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe and Asia. It also breeds in remote inland parts of the United States and much of Canada. Most birds migrate in winter to the coast. During this time, this small grebe is mainly white with a sharply defined black cap.

Where these can be seen: This example was seen in the Oysterbed lagoon between the islands and the coastal path.

 Family Podicipedidae. Genus Tachybaptus

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) Copyright Peter Drury

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Copyright Peter Drury

The Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), also known as Dabchick, is 23 to 29 cm in length. It is the smallest European member of the grebe family of water birds and is commonly found in open bodies of water across most of its range.

Juvenile birds have a yellow bill with a small black tip, and black and white streaks on the cheeks and sides of the neck as seen below. This yellow bill darkens as the juveniles age, eventually turning black once in adulthood.

Where these can be seen: During the Autumn/winter months small flocks can be found in the Oysterbed Lagoon near the weirs as the tide is refreshing the lagoon.

 Grebe Gallery