Note on nesting of Great Crested Grebe

This entry was posted Tuesday, 16 June, 2009 at 12:33 pm

By Anirudh Chaoji
23-24 Oct 2008; Swamp on the Saurashtra-Diu border, close to the Diu Check post; 20° 41′ 60 N, 70° 58′ 60 E

In the last week of Oct, 2008, while traveling from Gir to Diu, I was surprised to come across a swamp just outside the Diu check post that had a number of water birds. A number of Coots were nesting and a few had their chicks in toe.gcg-with-egg1

This is where; I noticed a few Great Crested Grebes (both males and females) feeding in the water-body. Behind this group was a female Grebe sitting on a floating nest with a solitary egg. She would leave the nest for a short while to feed, only to return and sit over the egg. This was very important, as a Brahminy Kite continuously flew overhead and picked up a Coot chick in front of us. Eventually we counted a total of three nesting Grebe pairs. We could observe these birds diving frequently – probably for fish, insects and invertebrate larvae.

Great Crested Grebes are well known for their elaborate courtship display, in which pairs raise and shake their head plumes, and approach each other with weed in their bills, rising up breast to breast in the water and turning their heads from side to side. The male bird had unmistakable ornate decoration on the head and the neck. Interestingly, it was this very decoration that almost led to this birds’ extinction in the Great

Over a century ago the traffic in eggs and the demand for breast feathers for ladies’ headgear reduced number of these birds to low ebb. As soon as the birds became scarce, collectors eagerly obtained specimens for mounting in glass cases. It is appalling to read that in a single spring one individual in Norfolk, U.K. shot 29 grebes all in full breeding plumage. In 1889 a group of women formed the ‘Fur, Fin and Feather Folk’ in order to protest against the massacre of birds purely for clothing. Within one year the group had more than 5000 members. From 1904 this group came to be known as known as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and is today one of Europe’s largest and most influential conservation charities, with over one million members. The Great Crested Grebe has since expanded greatly in numbers and range, and is one of the most resounding conservation successes that Great Britain has known.

Some of these birds are known to breed irregularly in Kutch, but probably there are no records of them nesting in this Saurashtra – Diu region. The nest here was a floating platform anchored to vegetation. Both parents were involved in incubation. These birds are known to cover the eggs with rotting vegetation to keep them warm. New born hatching are capable of swimming and diving.They  have their heads striped black and white, much like zebras, are often carried around on the backs of their parents. We did not see any hatchlings.


2 Comments to Note on nesting of Great Crested Grebe

  1. Taej Mundkur says:

    August 6th, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Anirudh,

    Very good to read about your discovery of the Great Crested Grebes breeding in southern Saurashtra, along with the photographs. It would be good to publish this observation, as it should be an extension of the breeding range of the species across Saurashtra.

    From 1985 onwards at the Khijidia Bird Sanctuary near Jamnagar, we had the pleasure of observing the GCG nesting in Gujarat. This observation was after nearly 100 years when it was first recorded near the Little Rann.

    In the first case it was recorded (in the late 1800s), the bird was shot and the eggs sent to the BNHS and reported in the journal. The authors then reported in the next year that the birds did not breed there!

    We reported our observations in the BNHS journal; Mundkur, T. & Pravez, R. 1986. Rediscovery of the Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus breeding in Gujarat. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc. 83: 429 431.

    Also interesting to learn about your observation of the predation by Brahminy Kite on young coot.

    Good luck with your work.

    Best wishes,
    Taej Mundkur

  2. Hannah says:

    April 14th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    That’s very inspiring on your study with this birds and their activity in their migration. I hope to develop some skills and like yours as I’m interested in migratory birds in the Philippines. Some place become sanctuaries as required by the law to protect the birds which turn out to be a good tourist attraction, sad thing the global warming seemed slowly affecting the birds activities..

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