The past few weeks I have been trying to photograph the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) whilst displaying its mating ritual, this is the second year I have been trying to photograph the ritual.
The Great Crested Grebe is the biggest (on average 46 to 51 cm) species of grebes found in Europe, its a typical water bird that can be found in ponds and lakes. Grebes are excellent swimmers and divers, they use these abilities to catch fish or flee from danger.
Description: The adults are unmistakable with there characteristic head and neck decorations, they have a white face with a red-brown and black collar, the collar is displayed during there mating display. Between it’s eyes and pink beak runs a small black line. The Great Crested Grebe has a white bottom, a orange/brownish middle section and is dark on the upper side. There legs have no flippers and are positioned relatively far at the backside of there body, making it hard to move over land. This is why grebes have a preference for building there nests along the water’s edge.
Juveniles have a characteristic black and white striped pattern, which the parents can recognize. Male and female grebes will each identify their ‘favourites’, which they alone will care for and teach. A few days after hatching the chicks can already swim and dive, the adults teach these skills to their young by carrying them on their back and diving, leaving the chicks to float on the surface; they then re-emerge a few feet away so that the chicks may swim back onto them. Whilst on the back of the adults, the juveniles are better protected from predatory fish and herons. After approximately ten weeks the chicks are independent.
Behaviour: Grebes are known for there mating display. The male dives in the water to get some aquatic plants. Then they swim at each other, with a stretched neck, when there chests make contact they rise out of the water. During spring the grebe couple builds a “play” nest on the water for mating. Soon after a bigger and stronger nest will be made at the water’s edge, this nest will be used for laying and hatching the eggs. They will usually lay three to four blue-green eggs, which will colour yellow and brown later on. The eggs will be hatched by both parents taking turns, but sometimes the nest is left unoccupied for a small amount of time. When the nest is unoccupied, the eggs are camouflaged by plant parts. The eggs will be hatched in about 23 to 25 days.
I still have not photographed the mating display of the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus). I have witnessed parts of there mating display but not the full “show”, I have seen them mating and hatching there eggs. Whilst the few couples I was following are already on there nests, I have found another couple that has not been nesting yet. Hopefully they will display there mating ritual when I’m with them, If not…. Well U always have to have wishes and that gives me another goal for the next year(‘s).
More photo’s can be found by following the link to my Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) collection