The Great crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) is found in Europe & across to Asia. It can be locally common, where suitable undisturbed bodies of waters exist. In the UK this species is closely associated with lakes in the breeding season, often moving to the coast or larger reservoirs in winter.
In Holland it is a very common bird, been found along canals & even water bodies in the middle of towns & cities. It is a common bird in the waterways around Rotterdam & as I was cycling around I was rarely away from this species. The breeding population must number many thousands of pairs.
There are two other races found in Africa & in Australasia. These populations tend to be much more sedentary & in the case of southern Africa, it is a very localized species, confined to relatively high altitude lakes.
Pairs are territorial in the breeding season & can often be seen conducting their elaborate displays, with plumes raised & much head shaking.
They are excellent parents & once hatched the chicks are quickly introduced to the water, where they are closely watched by one or both parents.
Chicks can often be seen hitching a ride on the back of a parent & the adult bird will often raise its feathers to slightly shelter the chicks from potential predators.
The above adult bird is trying to lead me away from the chicks while the other parents shepherds them away from potential danger.
This pair had managed to raise three chicks which is quite unusual. Chicks fall prey to a wide variety of predators from both above & below the water.
Chicks loose their distinctive stripey pattern as they get older. By their first autumn they look like adults in non breeding plumage.
It was fantastic to see this species in such numbers in Holland. One of the major factors for this birds success must be the high quality of water bodies in this country. Pollution of any kind is rare in Holland & quickly dealt with. The UK could learn a lesson here from our close neighbours!