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Great Crested Grebe

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The largest of our grebes having along neck and flat-topped head

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Great Crested Grebe: the water dancer

Post date: Thursday, 1 January, 2015 - 00:00

When spring arrives everything changes and much of it we notice but some things go unnoticed perhaps. We hear the birds starting to sing again, we see insects on the wing, we see the green shoots on the tress and hedgerows, and we see the colour of the early flowers. But, do we notice that birds are getting their breeding plumage? 

In a lot of species the change is negligible of course, one does not notice the more vibrant colours in the greenfinch and the chaffinch but you can hardly miss the wonderful head dress that the great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) develops. The great crested grebe is a pretty special bird at any time in my book but this splendid plumage linked with their delightful 'water dance' and breeding display make them a species to be looked out for.

Not overly common in Dorset in spring and summer as we perhaps lack large expanses of fresh water but they are to be seen and they do nest here. In winter they are far more common being just as at home on the sea as on lakes and estuaries.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Great Crested Grebe
Scientific Name Podiceps cristatus
Status Occasional
Interest Level
Species Family Grebes
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Harbours, estuaries and lagoons
  • Open sea
Look for The long neck and low body profile
Additional Identification Notes
  • Summer and winter plumage is very different and in spring and summer the vibrant colurs make it easy to identify as it breeds on lakes and large ponds
  • In winter they lose these colours and become pale grey as they move to open water to feed and this makes them harder to identify
  • In winter the are often seen in groups of up to a dozen off shore and can be identified by their long necks, pointed bill and low body profile in the water