Of the three subspecies of the crested grebe, cristatus breeds in the Palaearctic, infuscatus breeds in Africa and autralis in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australiasian crested grebe in New Zealand may spend all of its life on the freshwater lakes where it breeds. It prefers clear lakes with a plentiful supply of small fish, insects and waterweeds. Ideally, the water is shallow enough to allow the grebe to fish at depths of two to five metres.
Before mating, these grebes perform an elegant mutual courtship dance to establish the pair bond. Oliver records that after pairing off, the birds experience a gradual heightening of tension within the period of a few days. By far the commonest display is that of head shaking while facing each other in water, and this is acompanied by the raising of the ruff of feathers about the throat and head and excited gurgling chatter from both. When excitement reaches a higher pitch they rise almost vertically in the water, breast to breast and bill to bill.
Describing the nesting habits of the crested grebe, Potts states; “we have found the nest in November and December. The structure is large and very solidly built of pieces of decayed Carex virgata, raised about a foot above the level of the water; its sloping sides give a ready means of reaching the basin–like depression on the top in which the eggs are deposited. In several instances we have observed that the nest had been constructed on the top of an old stump of Carex virgata situated in a shallow part of the lake, distant from twenty to one hundred yards from the shore. During incubation, the grebe maintains an upright posture, with its long graceful neck held erect, so motionless in attitude, that at a distance it rather resembles a stick than anything endued with life. Watchful and shy, it noiselessly dives immediately it discovers itself observed.”
On Lake Guyon, Travers states that “both male and female grebe assist in the labour of incubation. Before the actual work of incubation commences the eggs are usually covered with pond weed during the absence of the birds from the nest. The young birds take to the water immediately after being excluded from the egg. When fatigued they are carried on the backs of the old birds, taking their station immediately behind the insertion of the wings.”
Other common names: —
Southern crested grebe, Puteketeke.
50 cm., 1100 g., long neck with long sharp bill, prominent double crest and ruff, silvery white foreneck and chest, chestnut at the sides, upper surface blackish brown, iris red, feet olive green.
Where to find: —
In New Zealand, South Island only, breed on lowland lakes west of the Southern Alps and subalpine and alpine lakes east of the main ranges, the greatest number inland Canterbury.
Credit for the photograph: —
Illustration description: —
Gould, John, Birds of Europe, 1832–37.
Gould, John, Birds of Australia, 1848.
Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.
Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Potts, Henry, Transactions of the NZ Institute, 1870.
Travers, Transactions of the NZ Institute, 1871.
Page date & version: —
Saturday, 17 May, 2014; ver2009v1