Great crested grebe is a waterfowl, the largest representative of the order of grebes in Europe, hence the second name of the bird Greater toadstool. The birds received such an unusual name because of the disgusting taste and smell of their meat, it is somewhat reminiscent of the smell of rotten fish. For a long time, this species was on the verge of destruction due to the fashion for jewelry made from their feathers.
Geography of residence
Birds of this species are common in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, East and South Africa, can lead both migratory and sedentary lifestyles. In places of residence, it nests everywhere, except for the territory of the Far North.
These birds live on lakes and ponds, nest in damp places, close to fresh water bodies, the main condition for choosing a nesting site is a large amount of aquatic vegetation.
Great crested grebe or great grebe.
In the photo of the Grebe, it can be seen that their body is streamlined, roll-shaped, with dense plumage. Greater Greater Greater Crested Grebe are not large birds, the body length is 46 - 59 cm, and the weight is from 600 to 1500 grams, and the females are noticeably smaller than the males. These birds have a long and thin, almost vertical neck. An interesting fact is that the Great Crested Grebe has no continuous swimming membranes on its feet, and each toe is bordered by a wide rowing blade. The legs of the birds are olive green. The wings of the crested Grebe are not long and rather narrow, the tail is so short that it is almost invisible.
During the breeding season, the feathers of the back are painted black-brown, and the abdomen and neck are satin white. A chestnut-red "collar" is pronounced on the head, and two bunches of feathers are located on the crown of the head. During winter, this collar and tufts of feathers disappear. Sexual dimorphism is practically absent.
Nutrition and behavior
Great crested grebe is a carnivorous bird, they feed on fish, molluscs, larvae of aquatic insects, small amphibians and crustaceans, sometimes in their diet there are a variety of algae. In order to find food for itself, the bird descends into the water, where it explores the bottom with its long beak and catches food.
Chomga caught a fish.
Great crested grebe with an inflated frog.
Chomga deals with prey.
Chomga caught a large fish.
To protect the stomach and intestines from injury from fish bones, the bird periodically swallows its own feathers.
Under the water, grebes can move tens of meters, staying there for up to 3 minutes. The female continues to dive deeply even with chicks on her back.
In order to take off, the Greater Grebes carry out a long run from the water; these birds cannot take off from land. They go ashore very rarely, they move there with great difficulty.
Usually the Grebes live in small groups of 3-4 birds.
How to find out
(Podiceps cristatus), - the largest of all grebes, weighs from 650 to 1400 g. Above, the crested grebe is brownish-black, below it is white, the sides are rusty-red, there are two white stripes across the wing.
Especially characteristic of the chomga are her chestnut-red collar on the neck and two bunches of feathers on the head (ears). In a winter outfit, these bunches become shorter, and the collar disappears altogether.
The great grebe is very widespread. It breeds in Australia, New Zealand, in Africa south of Sakhara, in Europe south of 60-63 ° north latitude and in Asia south of Tyumen, Omsk, Achinsk, Lake Khanka. In the north of the range, this bird is migratory, in the south it has settled. Most of the birds flying southward overwinter in southern parts of Europe and Asia.
Lifestyle and biology
For nesting, the Greater Grebe chooses more or less extensive stagnant and slow-flowing reservoirs with developed aquatic vegetation well-warmed by the sun and with a sufficient number of fish.
An important condition for habitation is the presence of quiet open reaches, where the bird could hunt for fish, and adjacent thickets of reeds or reeds, where it could hide a nest and hide from danger.
In the spring the Grecian Grecian flies to the nesting places when the reservoirs are free of ice cover and when conditions favorable for life come. In the south of our country, this is observed at the end of March, in the northern regions of the range - at the beginning of May.
Soon after arrival, the birds begin to play very characteristic mating games. At the same time, the birds swim towards each other, unfold the feathers of the collars, move their heads and, having swum close, seem to stand against each other in the water, exposing their chest and belly, sometimes the male "stands" in this way on the water above the female. At the same time, the Grebes scream a lot.
Greater grebe nests, as a rule, in separate pairs, but sometimes forms large colonies on large lakes. The nest is placed on the water, usually it is buoyant, less often it rests on the bottom. It is located most often among rare thickets of reeds or near a channel so that on the one hand it is protected from the action of waves and wind, and on the other hand, it is available for birds to swim up.
It is a heap of dead vegetation, mainly reeds and reeds. The nest is semi-submerged and wet, with a fairly flat tray. The underwater part of the nest has a water temperature, and the surface part is higher, up to 7.5 ° above the ambient temperature. This is when there is no bird on the nest.
Socket dimensions: diameter. nests 42-65 cm, nest height 42-65 cm, surface height 3-5 cm, tray diameter 18-22 cm.
After the completion of the nest building, egg laying begins. The bird rushes at intervals of 48 hours. Oviposition lasts from mid-April in the south of the country to mid-May in the north of the breeding area. A full clutch consists of 3-4, rarely 5-7 greenish-yellow eggs without a pattern (Table 1). Egg sizes: 48-63x32-41 mm.
The male and female incubate for 28 days, starting from the laying of the first egg. Leaving the nest in case of danger, the birds hastily cover it with the material from which it is made.
In June, chicks hatch, and not simultaneously in the same nest. As a result, there is a different age of chicks in broods. Chicks leave the nest immediately after they dry out a little. Both parents share the care of the chicks.
First, they feed them on insects and their larvae and other aquatic invertebrates, and later, when the chicks grow up, on small fish. In this case, at first, the chicks feed from the beak, and then the food is placed on the water, from where the chicks take it on their own, learning to dive.
Greater grebe, like its other relatives, is interesting in a peculiar way of protecting chicks from feathered predators, which are always enough in its habitats.
Unlike ducks and coots, the grebe, together with downy chicks, swims far away from the reed thickets to the middle of the reach and does not show concern when a swamp harrier or other predator appears.
Only with the explicit intention of the latter to attack the brood does it dive, showing itself after a while for several tens of meters to the side. Chicks also dive with her, but not on their own, but after climbing onto the mother's back and hiding in her plumage.
Chicks get so tightly stuck among thick feathers, sticking out only the tip of their beak, that the bird calmly dives with its precious load, not afraid to lose it under water. Predators, apparently, know from experience the elusiveness of grebe broods and usually do not try to chase them. There are observations that toadstools can even fly with chicks on their backs.
At about one month old, the chicks begin to fly. At the age of 2.5 months, shortly before departure, the broods break up, and the young begin to lead an independent lifestyle.
Big toadstool has two molts per year: incomplete premarital (spring) and full postnuptial (autumn). The prenuptial covers all small plumage, takes place in February - March, in late March - early April, adults have a completely ready-made mating outfit. The postnuptial plumage covers all plumage, including the flight feathers, which are replaced quickly and simultaneously. It runs in August - September.
Unlike other grebes, the main food of the Grebe is fish, especially in autumn and winter. In addition, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, as well as plants obtained in the water are eaten. Chicks are fed mainly by insects.
Grebe is an aquatic bird of the toadstool family, which is no larger than a duck in size. The sophisticated image of the grebe is in perfect harmony with the long, graceful neck and sharp, straight beak. An uninitiated person, hearing the name of a bird, might think that we are talking about toadstools. However, the bird has nothing to do with the mushroom nature. The crested grebe acquired the name "Big Grebe" due to the specific taste and smell of its own meat. The repulsive taste and unpleasant aroma of the game makes the bird free from human encroachment. This becomes especially true in the spring, when many hunters become more active and the population of ducks is significantly reduced. We can say that nature thus protected the crested grebe from extermination. What else is interesting about this graceful bird, let's try to figure it out.
Features of the crested Grebe's lifestyle
In the water, the grebe perfectly swims and dives, but on land it feels rather awkward - its short legs allow it to move along the shore quite relatively. For this reason, the duck swims in most cases, other modes of movement are considered forced. There must also be a good reason for flying, such as overwintering. When a danger arises, a big grebe is more likely to dive under the water, where it can not be afraid for its life, since this bird simply has no equal in the water element. Great crested Grebe skillfully presses its wings to the body to improve hydrodynamics, this allows the waterfowl to gain incredible speed at depth. This is a great way to protect yourself from enemies, which are enough for Grebes. Large birds, such as a crow or a marsh harrier, can destroy nests and eat the eggs of the great toadstool. As soon as the chomga chicks hatch and enter the water, they can become tasty food for large predatory fish.
Since water is a natural habitat of the Greyhound, it feeds on what it can get in the reservoir. The main diet consists of medium and small fish, which the grebe duck swallows completely. Sometimes under water, together with the fish, the bird can swallow its own feathers, which later the grebe simply regurgitates, along with the fish bones. In addition, the Greater Greyhound feeds on other aquatic inhabitants - frogs, crustaceans, various molluscs and insects. If the birds arrived in early spring, when the reservoirs are still covered with ice, the grebe is happy to feast on the first spring vegetation. If ponds and stagnant lakes do not freeze for the winter, the bird in most cases does not fly away for wintering, it just needs to dive deeper into the water column to get food for itself. Great crested grebe dives really deep, there were cases when fishermen found birds stuck in fishing nets at a depth of 25-30 meters. In addition, the toadstool can hold air for a long time and stay under water for 15-20 seconds.
Crested Grebe nesting
During the mating season, individuals of the great toadstool become incredibly beautiful and sophisticated. A spectacular forelock grows on the head, and a collar appears around the head, which looks more like sideburns. Mating games are long and intense - individuals flaunt in front of each other, stretching and showing their partner a long neck and large wingspan. At the same time, loud sounds are heard, which are usually heard for hundreds of meters around. After the birds have chosen a mate, the couple begins to build a nest. As a rule, grebe builds a nest on water from reeds or dry plants that do not drown. In some cases, the nest may be built on an island of floating peat. From the outside, such a floating nest seems to be a heap of unnecessary garbage, although in reality there is a depression inside the dry stems and leaves. In the depths of the nest, there are several large white eggs, they have an unusual, pointed shape at the edges.
Over time, eggs from snow-white become brown, acquiring a marsh hue due to the fact that the surrounding vegetation in the water rots. Such a finding of the nest in the water in a semi-submerged state is a guarantee of the safety of the chicks' life. The eggs hatch for 3-4 weeks, during which the female tries not to leave them. If she is forced to leave, the eggs are simply covered with grass and reeds on top. With an interval of several days, the chicks hatch one after the other. At birth, they already have a small fluff, the chicks hide under the mother's wing. Almost immediately, the female puts the young on her back and begins to immerse herself in the water with them in order to accustom them to their natural environment.
The chicks become fully adults in 2-3 months, when the mother lets them float freely and they begin to take care of their own food on their own. In the wild, Grecian Greater lives for about 10-15 years, in the conditions of reserves it is much longer - almost 25 years.
Kora flaccid, abo chomga (early - Paganka flaccid)
The whole territory of Belarus
Family Grebe - Podicipedidae
In Belarus - P. c. cristatus (a subspecies that inhabits the entire Palaearctic part of the species range).
Breeding, migratory and transit migratory and wintering species in small numbers. Distributed throughout Belarus. The most common and largest of the 5 species of our toadstools. Common for nesting and fly-overs in all regions of the republic where there are suitable stations. The most common in the Vitebsk, northwestern parts of the Minsk and Grodno regions, as well as in the lake areas of the Brest region. In the eastern regions of the Mogilev and Gomel regions. large toadstools appear mainly on the flights, they rarely nest due to the lack of necessary land (lakes overgrown with reeds and with open areas of water, large creeks and river branches).
Waterfowl, the largest of the toadstools, smaller than a domestic duck, the size of a mallard. The body is well adapted to the aquatic environment: a streamlined, rolling shape, covered with a dense feather. The neck is long and slender, in a swimming bird it is almost vertical. The legs are carried far back. The toes are not connected by a continuous swimming membrane, and each along the entire length is bordered laterally by a wide rowing blade. The claws are flat, nail-like. The wings are short and narrow.
The tail feathers are rudimentary, the tail is very short, almost invisible in a swimming bird. The beak is straight, pointed. Tarsus strongly compressed laterally, flat.
In Belarus, only one species is similar to the Grebe - the gray-cheeked grebe, which is listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus. The great grebe differs from it in its large size, bright "collar" and (adult) reddish beak, in winter - a white neck.
Males and females have the same color. In breeding plumage, the top is blackish-brown, the abdomen and neck in front are satin-white. On the sides, the feathers are rusty-red. On the head there is a dark cap, the cheeks are white, on the neck there is a well-developed chestnut-red “collar”, black at the edges. On the crown of the head there are 2 long tufts ("ears") of black feathers. In the first winter plumage, there is no “collar” or “ears” and, in general, young birds are dimmer, with a yellow-green beak. The beak in adults is dark-horny, the edges and bases of the beak are red. Legs are olive greenish. The eyes are bright red. Downy chicks are variegated; longitudinal white stripes are preserved on the sides of the neck and on the chest.
The weight of males is 0.95-1.6 kg, females are 0.8-1.1 kg. The body length of males is 53-59 cm, the wing length of males is 18-20 cm, of females are 17.5-19 cm, the tarsus of males are 6-7 cm, of females are 6 cm, the beak of males is 5-5.5 cm, of females are 4.5- 5 cm. Wingspan 81-90 cm.
Chomga spends almost all the time on the water. Landing on water is low, a long, straight neck rises above the elongated body. It swims and dives perfectly, moving tens of meters under water. In case of danger, instantly, without the slightest splash, dives.It can stay under water for up to 3 minutes. Takes off only from the water after a long run. The flight is straightforward, fast, with frequent flaps of the wings. However, it is not often possible to see a flying bird - it is extremely reluctant to climb onto the wing of a grebe. On land he moves with difficulty, waddles.
The voice is very loud and varied. The voice (Fedyushin and Dolbik) is a rather loud croaking cry of "kroo", as well as a repetitive "kuek-kuek". Other authors (Kozulin et al.) Indicate that in the spring they emit a throaty cry "kkua", the call call is an abrupt "kyuik".
During migrations, toadstools adhere to the channels of large rivers, feed and rest in the open reaches of lakes. On the Dnieper, Pripyat, Berezina, Sozha, they can be seen at this time alone, in pairs or small flocks of 3-4, less often 5-8 birds.
The spring migration begins in late March - early April, after the opening of the reservoirs and continues until the end of the month. In early springs, birds arrive 10-14 days earlier than average, in cold and prolonged springs - about the same number of days later.
It nests in water bodies of various types (lakes, fish ponds, reservoirs, river creeks), but if there is a mandatory presence there, there is both a sufficient width of a strip of emergent vegetation, and areas of open, sufficiently deep water. Nesting on the sandy shores of reservoir islands is known as a rare exception. Avoids small forest water bodies, is rare on small floodplain lakes.
It settles in monogamous pairs, but in favorable places it can form nesting clusters from several to two dozen pairs, sometimes up to 100 pairs. On medium-sized water bodies, it often nests in separate pairs.
Nesting is preceded by mating games with demonstration of various current postures. The main function of mating games is the formation of the most harmonious pairs and therefore it is not necessary that they end in mating. With the beginning of the construction of the nest, the intensity of the marriage ceremonies decreases.
Birds do not start nesting soon, usually from the end of May,
when a young reed or reed rises above the water. However,
the timing of nesting and laying of eggs of grebes depends on their habitat.
On lakes where last year's dry reeds and nests are preserved
can immediately be hidden in it, masonry appears earlier than on
covered lakes or where reeds are mown.
The laying of eggs is also preceded by complex mating games of the male and female, during which both birds first dive at the same time, and when they emerge, they quickly swim towards each other, raising the crests on their heads and protruding the feathers of the collar. Having approached, the birds seem to stand on the water, giving the body an upright position. Diving, they take out bundles of greenery from the bottom and, holding them in their beaks, shake their prey, trying to strike each other.
Mating of large toadstools, however, does not take place on the water, but on a floating deck made from the remains of last year's reeds or on an unfinished nest.
Alexander Ifikov, "Shchetinka" quarry, Orsha
Nest is located, as a rule, among high-stemmed coastal thickets, in the absence of ripples - often along their very edge. They avoid nesting in the middle of dense thickets. The nests are located at such a distance from the edge of the thickets that a strong wave could not destroy them. Most nests are found among reeds, although they can often be found in reeds, in tracts of reed mace, or among flooded bushes. Sometimes, near the border of vast dense thickets, the bird makes nests in a very small clump of vegetation or even completely open in shallow water. Near the colonies of gulls, great crested gulls sometimes build nests right on the sand under the cover of rare reeds.
Both members of the pair build nests together. At the nesting site, the pair usually builds several nesting platforms at first, but uses only one to build a nest, and mates or rests on the rest. The nest is kept afloat or rests on the bottom of the reservoir. It usually takes 3 to 8 days to build one nest, sometimes up to 10–11 days. When building it, the bird, as a rule, places several strong stems between the plants protruding from the water as a base. The composition of the building material largely depends on the nature of the surrounding vegetation. They can serve as last year's stems, leaves, rhizomes, roots, algae. The height of the nest is 24-49 cm, the height of the above-water part of the nest is 3-7 cm, the diameter is 41-55 cm, the depth of the tray is 2.5-4 cm, the diameter is 11-17 cm.
There are sometimes bunches of green plants in the tray. In the nests found on the open sandy shores, fragments of tree branches were found in the building material.
Under the weight of the incubating bird, the warmed clutch is often partially submerged in water. The heat from the decaying plant residues creates a special microclimate for the incubated eggs.
Alexander Ifikov, "Shchetinka" quarry, Orsha
There are usually 4-5 eggs in a clutch, less often 3 or 7 (in other regions of Europe, finds of nests containing 8 or even 9 eggs are known). The eggs are slightly elongated. The shell without shine, initially bluish in color, is unevenly covered with a white bloom, through which the main background shines through with uneven spots. In the nest, eggs lie on a wet tray, often even half-submerged in water, which creates special conditions for the development of the embryo. Under the influence of wet rotting plants of the tray, the shell acquires a yellowish, then brown and dark brown color. Egg weight 38 g, length 56 mm (53-61 mm), diameter 37 mm (34-41 mm).
Greater grebe, despite its early arrival, which coincides in time with the release of ice from water bodies, starts nesting late and hatches offspring once a year. In general, the period of oviposition is extended by about one month. In some water bodies, as a result of significant fluctuations in the water level, strong waves, or for other reasons, the first clutches often die. In such cases, the bird resorts to re-nesting.
The nesting period in Belarus extends from early May to late July. Oviposition in Greyhound usually occurs in the first half of the day, the interval between oviposition is 1–2 days. Incubation begins with the first or second egg. Duration of incubation is 25–28 days. The bird, disturbed during incubation, covers the clutch with nest material and dives, floating far to the side. In different parts of the range in a clutch, one egg usually turns out to be unfertilized.
Both parents incubate in turn. Chicks hatch on the 27-28th day of incubation, they are of the brood type and, having barely dried out, go into the water. Chicks hatch one at a time in 1-2 days. Mass appearance of chicks occurs in the third decade of June - the first decade of July. In some pairs, chicks hatch in the first - second decades of June, in others in the third decade of July - early August. Average size of brood with 1-5 chicks. The hatched chicks, having dried, immediately climb onto the back of the hatching parent and burrow into feathers. In the same way, small chicks travel through the reservoir. They do this even when they reach half the height of an adult bird. For the first ten weeks, they cannot get food on their own. They are fed by their parents first with insects and then with fish. At this time, the squeak of chicks begging for food from adult birds is constantly heard on the reservoir. Chicks swim well, but grow slowly and stay with their parents for a long time. If there is one chick in the brood, then only one parent remains with it. If there are more chicks, then in 1–1.5 months the brood is separated, and each parent leads his own group.
Young birds become independent at the age of about 65 days and only at the age of 71–79 days do they become completely independent, however, they keep together with their parents until the birds leave. Part of the young at the end of July - the first half of August acquire the ability to fly and begin to make pre-migration migrations. They begin to meet in those reservoirs where birds did not nest. During migrations, they continue to keep broods.
After a striped downy outfit (some feathers persist until autumn), the young put on a juvenile outfit, generally similar to an adult, but with a barely outlined "collar" of occipital feathers. On the sides of the head, brownish-black stripes are still preserved, which makes the plumage of the head look like a downy outfit. After juvenile
moulting birds put on a winter premarital outfit, which is almost indistinguishable from the breeding outfit of adult birds.
The change of mating attire for winter takes place in birds from June to the end of July. Moulting of adults begins immediately after the nesting period, mostly in July, and continues until November. Flight feathers, apparently, are replaced at the same time. In winter, from February to April, only small feathers change. Winter plumage is replaced by breeding plumage at the end of wintering - in March - April.
Great Crested Grebes are active in the daytime. They get food during daylight hours. During the breeding (current) period, they are also active at night. They also migrate at night. They rest afloat, during the breeding season they often use the nests left after incubation and the release of chicks or built additional ones for rest.
Valery Kiselyov, reservoir of microdistrict. "Gomselmash", Gomel
The main food of large toadstools is fish, mainly small in size (3-8 cm). In their diet, fish occupies a much larger part than that of other toadstools. In different seasons of the year, the percentage of fish consumption by poultry is always quite high. In addition to fish, it catches aquatic insects (swimming beetles and other bugs), amphipods, molluscs. They swallow their own small feathers, and not only adult birds, but also downy chicks swallowing the feathers of adults.
Chicks are fed with insects and fish. Greaters dive, get food and swim to chicks with food in their beak. In addition, Grebes also collect food from the surface of the water, in a semi-submerged state, lowering their head and neck under the water, they seize flying insects in the air.
The main way of getting food for grebes is diving. Crested Grebe dives up to three times a minute, swim 6–25 m under water in 10–30 seconds. On average, 1 out of 5 attempts to fish is successful. If an adult manages to grab food, then the young rush to meet their parents with a squeak and try to snatch it out. The chicks also try to dive.
Autumn migration and migration of birds in southwestern Belarus occurs mainly in mid-September - October, in some years until mid-November. As an exception, in the autumn migration there are flocks of several tens and even hundreds of individuals, more often flocks of 3-5 birds. In autumn, most grebes arrive in the second half of September and in October. Some individuals are also found later. In the Grodno region. some individuals even hibernate in the non-freezing areas of the Neman. In the south-west of Belarus, up to 10–20 individuals overwinter in non-freezing areas of the Mukhavets and Western Bug rivers and treatment facilities in a number of years.
Alexander Ifikov, "Shchetinka" quarry, Orsha
It is not a hunting species (like other grebes) - although they are edible, they have a dark color and an unpleasant fishy taste and smell. Crested grebe is sometimes shot at the same time when hunting ducks. The harm caused by eating fish fry can be really felt only in the nursery ponds of fish farms.
The main enemies of the Greyhound during the nesting period are the Marsh Harrier, Magpie, and the Hooded Crow, which peck at the clutches. A certain part of the downy jackets perishes from the marsh harrier and large birds of prey, pike. Many nests also die from fluctuations in the water level and with a strong wave. Birds die in fishing nets.
However, in recent years, despite the high percentage of nest deaths, the number of great grebes is progressing, which is facilitated by the expansion of the network of fish farms and other artificial reservoirs.
The number of Grebes in Belarus in the 1990s was estimated at 8-10 thousand nesting pairs. It remained the same in the early 2000s. During the winter on non-freezing water bodies, no more than 50-60 individuals are observed. Over the past 20 years, there has been a slight increase in the number, which is associated with the expansion of the network of fish farms and other artificial reservoirs.
3. Nikiforov M. Ye., Yaminsky B. V., Shklyarov L. P. "Birds of Belorussia: Reference book-identifier of nests and eggs" Minsk, 1989. -479p.
4. Gaiduk VE, Abramova IV "The ecology of birds in the south-west of Belarus. Non-passerine: monograph". Brest, 2009. –300s.
5. Kozulin A. V., Yaminsky B. V., Zuyenok S. V. "Hunting birds of Belarus". Reference guide. Smolensk, 2002. -100s.
6. Nikiforov ME, Kozulin AV, Sidorovich VE "Hunting birds and animals of Belarus". Minsk, 1991.240s.
7. Fransson, T., Jansson, L., Kolehmainen, T., Kroon, C. & Wenninger, T. (2017) EURING list of longevity records for European birds.