Great Crested Greb

Great Crested Grebe – Podiceps cristatus


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Podicipediformes
  • Family: Podicipedidae
  • Genre: Podiceps
  • Species: Podiceps cristatus 

Identification characters

It is the largest of the crested grebe species, with a body length of 46-51 cm and a wing span of 59-73 cm. It weighs on average 596-1490 g. Both females and males show black on the back and dorsal neck during breeding. The abdomen is whitish. The flanks are brownish. When alert, the head plumage is raised and fan-shaped, coloured black and reddish-brown. In winter the colours are more muted, without the coloured head plumage. It is easily recognized by the shape of the long, flattened body with a long, slender neck, the throat having a lighter tint compared to the crested grebe. In flight it appears very slender, performing rapid wing flaps. The secondaries are white and on the shoulders there is a prominent spot. Juveniles have streaked cheeks and a pinkish beak.

The genus name, Podiceps, comes from the Latin words podicis – terminal part of the abdomen and pes – foot, referring to the position of the legs towards the end of the abdomen. The species name, cristatus, also comes from Latin and means crested, referring to the erect head plumage during breeding.


The Great Crested Grebe is a generally sedentary species in Europe. It nests in central, eastern and northern Europe, but also in central, southern and eastern Asia. In winter some populations migrate to southern Africa and Australia, as well as south-east Asia. The global population is estimated at 915 000 – 1 400 000 individuals. The breeding population in Europe is estimated at 330 000 – 498 000 pairs and is declining. For the time being, due to a huge range, the species is classified as ‘Low Risk’.

In Romania, the Great Crested Grebe is a partially migratory species. The Romanian population is 15 000-30 000 pairs. In winter, the great cormorant can be observed mainly on still, unfrozen inland waters or even on large rivers. In summer it can be found on the surface of the water in fish farms, reservoirs, rivers with calmer water, the course of the Danube, the Razelm-Sinoe lagoon complex, the Danube Delta. In Romania the population trend is as yet unknown.

Living environment and biology of the species

The Great Crested Grebe nests in a variety of aquatic habitat types, such as freshwater and brackish lakes with abundant submerged and emergent vegetation. It equally chooses eutrophic and non-acidic waters with muddy or sandy substrates and more or less steep banks. It prefers aquatic habitats with a large water surface area and depths of up to 5 m.

In winter it can be seen on wide-open lakes where the water does not freeze, and occasionally along the coast of marine habitats.

It is a generally solitary bird. Very rarely groups of more than 100 individuals can be seen. It is a very good swimmer and diver. It floats on the surface of the water or may dive, leaving only its head and neck out when it senses danger. It cannot fly from the ground, and in order to take flight from the water it must gain momentum by running on water.

Maximum longevity of 19 years. Reaches sexual maturity at age two.

Food consists of aquatic insects (mayflies, water bugs, dragonfly larvae, aquatic beetles) and small and medium-sized fish (eelgrass, juvenile carp, flounder, bass) up to 25-30 cm long. Rarely, it may consume small water snakes and amphibians. To feed, it dives from the surface of the water to depths of up to 4 m, using legs or wings for propulsion. It can stay underwater for up to 1 minute. Prey can be eaten both while diving and at the surface.

It is a monogamous species, with pairs maintaining each other during a nesting season. Sometimes, if the pair uses the same territory, they can maintain themselves for longer periods. The mating ritual is complex and fascinating. The two partners perform a dance in which they mime cleaning their feathers, vigorously shake their heads, and present their chosen nest building material. In the so-called ‘penguin dance’, the two partners rise with their whole bodies from the water, joining chest to chest. They usually nest in solitary pairs, but colonies of more than 20 nests have also been reported, with a distance between nests of 20-25 m. The nest is constructed of floating aquatic plants and is anchored by emergent vegetation. Lays 3-6 eggs in May-June, which are incubated for 21-29 days by both partners. When they leave the nest, they cover the eggs with decaying vegetation, thus maintaining temperature. The chicks hatch one at a time. They swim and dive from day one. The parents nurse their chicks until they are 10-11 weeks old. In bad weather, the chicks can be carried on the parents’ backs. In the event of danger, the parent carrying the chicks may dive with the chicks.

Threats and conservation measures

Principala amenințare o constituie arderea stufului, chiar și în afara perioadei de vegetație, având în vedere că vegetația arsă nu se reface suficient până la începutul sezonului de reproducere pentru a oferi locuri de cuibărit. O altă amenințare este legată de pierderea suprafețelor de habitat pentru cuibărit, prin managementul nefavorabil al zonelor umede și poluarea apelor. Nu în ultimul rând trebuie amintite braconajul și mortalitatea cauzată de uneltele de pescuit, în care păsările pot fi prinse accidental.

Pentru conservare, trebuie urmărite respectarea restricțiilor în zonele ripariene,  managementul vegetației palustre, managementul deșeurilor și al apelor uzate, menținerea și conservarea stufărișurilor întinse cu apă permanentă, interzicerea incendierii stufului, managementul nivelului apei.

Este importantă menținerea de fâșii necultivate de minimum 1,5 m între terenurile cultivate și zonele umede, cu interzicerea folosirii produselor chimice.

Legislația vânătorii trebuie respectată, controlul fiind asigurat prin cooperarea între organizațiile de protecție a mediului, organizațiile de vânătoare, jandarmerie și Garda de Mediu împotriva braconajului. Se recomandă măsuri pentru reducerea utilizării plaselor pescărești.

Este important să fie inventariate zonelor de reproducere actuale și potențiale și să fie identificate zonele de hrănire și aglomerare importante pentru conservarea speciei. Trebuie promovate studiilor referitoare la diverse aspecte ale biologiei speciei, inclusiv cele care vizează parametrii demografici.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests- Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 82-83;
  • Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation into Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.66;
  • Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing, Bucharest, p. 67;
  • Ornitodata | Great Crested Grebe (
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