Red-necked Grebe

Podiceps grisegena

40-50cm

Appearance

This bird appears more stout than the Great Crested Grebe, and the yellow base of the bill helps with separation. The sexes appear similar, but plumage differs across seasons. Its cheeks and underparts are whitish in the summer, its upperparts greyish-brown, and its neck and breast are a distinctive reddish-brown. It has a black crown with the suggestion of a crest, and white-bordered light grey cheeks. In winter, the bird's neck colours disappear, except for the suggestion of a reddish collar; it is duller and dusky on the face and neck, and white on the breast. The black cap lowers to eye level. Juvenile birds are similar to winter adults but they have dark marks across their pale faces and have faded chestnut necks.

Habitat

In winter, it is predominately seen around the east coast of Britain; in summer, birds are mostly in the south and east of England. Tends towards sheltered inshore seas and estuaries.

Character

When in the air, its wingbeats are fast and strong, its head and neck stretched out, its legs dangling behind, and it has white sections on its wings. It dives for fish with a lively jump and is usually below the water for less than 30 seconds.

Food

Winter diet includes fish such as herring, gobies and sand eels, and also shrimps and prawns. Summer eating includes insects and their larvae and fish such as sticklebacks.

Breeding

Male and female build a floating nest made of vegetation. 4 or 5 eggs are incubated for 20-23 days, then the brood is divided between the adults; young fly at about 72 days. The bird occasionally mingles with gulls when breeding.

Population

After nesting, birds move to coastal waters or inland lakes. North-east European birds head south or west in late summer; many arrive in the North Sea and some winter along British coasts between October and March. Less than 20 individuals spend the summer in Britain, and the winter population expands to approximately 50 individuals.

Observation Tips

The southern and eastern coasts of Britain can provide viewing opportunities, especially on calm winter days.

Voice

Gives a loud hoot or wailing song when territorial or in courtship.
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