Great crested grebe

Great Crested Grebe

©Steve Waterhouse

Great Crested Grebe

©Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Great Crested Grebe with fish

©Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Great crested grebe

Scientific name: Podiceps cristatus
The graceful great crested grebe is a familiar sight on our lakes and reservoirs, and is well-known for its elaborate courtship dance, during which it rises vertically out of the water and shakes its head.

Species information


Length: 45-51cm
Wingspan: 88cm
Weight: up to 1.1kg
Average lifespan: 10-15 years

Conservation status

Common. Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021).

When to see

January to December


Grebes are diving waterbirds, feeding on small fish and aquatic invertebrates. A little bit larger than a Coot, great crested grebes nest on floating platforms made up of waterweed. They can be found on lakes and reservoirs everywhere.

How to identify

The largest and most often seen grebe, the great crested grebe has an impressive plume on its head and orange ruff around its neck during the breeding season. It has white cheeks, a dark cap, a white neck and a dark body.



Did you know?

Never mind Strictly Come Dancing, to see some fancy footwork head down to your local lake or reservoir to watch the wild dance of great crested grebes. Their early spring courtship includes 'mewing' and calling, synchronised swimming, preening and fanning out their feathery ruffs.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work with planners, water companies and landowners to help make our man-made waterways and waterbodies as good for wildlife as they are for people. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.


Great Crested Grebes by Tom Hibbert