great crested grebe
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great crested grebe - Great Crested Grebe
great crested grebe - Crown and crest and ruff dark brown and chestnut; cheeks white; upper parts dark brown; secondaries white; under parts silky white. Length, twenty-two inches.
The great crested grebe still survives as a British species, although it is a large and handsome bird, and, like all those to which such a description applies, it has been much persecuted. Among our large water-birds there are few more strikingly handsome and stately in appearance than this grebe in its full breeding-plumage, when viewed as it floats, unalarmed, on the secluded reed-fringed water it loves. The swan, in its immaculate white dress, with proudly arched neck and plume-like scapulars, when seen 'floating double,' is to many minds the most perfect type of a beautiful waterfowl; certainly it is the most familiar. The great grebe has a very different appearance, with its straight neck, long, boat-shaped body, dark upper and silvery under plumage, and its broad ruff and double, ear-like crest; but in some aspects he is not less attractive than the white, larger bird, especially when sailing peacefully in close proximity to tall, slender reeds, their beauty, and that of the bird, enhanced by the ' magic of reflection,' when both seem part of the glassy pool, and made for one another.
Although in sadly diminished numbers, the great crested grebe still breeds regularly in many localities in England, especially in the eastern counties, and in a few situations in Wales and Ireland. In the northern counties of England it is very rare, and does not breed in Scotland: it is there a winter migrant from the north of Europe.
The habits of the grebe when on the water are similar to those of the diver. It is adapted to a swimming and diving existence; feeds on fish, frogs, water-beetles, and other small aquatic creatures; when alarmed it sinks its body deeper and deeper into the water, and when pursued, or in danger, seeks to escape by diving. It makes little use of its wings, except when migrating. At most times it is a silent bird, but in the breeding season utters a harsh, grating cry.
The grebe makes a large platform nest of aquatic plants, placed on the water among the reeds. Four eggs are laid, the shell pale blue in colour, but covered with a soft, white, chalky substance. Invariably, when leaving the nest the bird covers the eggs with moss and weeds, and the usual inference is that this is done to hide them from rapacious egg-eating birds; but Seebohm is of the opinion that the eggs are covered to be kept warm, and he says that they are covered only after the full complement is laid and incubation begun.
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