Black-necked Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

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The black-necked grebe is a migratory bird found throughout Eurasia, North America and Africa. A partial migrator, the grebe belongs, along with the somewhat better known great crested grebe, to the podicep genus of aquatic diving birds: they have lobed rather than webbed feet. The soft, extremely thick plumage repels water and is made up of more than 20,000 feathers. Both sexes are difficult to distinguish and during courtship displays, both male and female birds are in breeding plumage. During this time head, neck, back and chest, alongside the small crest, are black instead of the grey brown colour of their basic plumage, while the flanks are reddish coloured. Next to the eyes, there are golden yellow feathery tufts on the ears. The iris is of a noticeably red hue. Black-necked grebes are gregarious birds and breed in colonies, often alongside black-headed gulls or black terns in flat, nutrient-rich fresh waters, such as lakes and ponds with dense riparian vegetation. They spend the winter on coastlines and in fresh waters. Courtship displays, best observed in March, are performed in groups of pairs over many weeks during migration and in breeding areas. Typical displays include the so-called ghost and cat poses, penguin dance and the presentation of nest materials, swimming in parallel and running in flight. The nests float on the water in and among the dense riverbank vegetation. The females lay a clutch of 3 to 5 white eggs, which both sexes will incubate. The precocial chicks hatch already capable of leaving the nest, being able to see and hear, move around and eat independently. Nevertheless, the parent birds will continue to feed them, typically with the chicks carried on their backs for the first few weeks. The food consists usually of insects, types of crab and snails.

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