52 Wild Things to Do in 2012: Watch grebes dance on water

Mike Dilger of The One Show explains what you would be likely to see when watching the courtship of great crested grebes. 

52 Things to Do in spring logo

In the year when the world’s greatest sporting extravaganza rolls into London, despair not if the ticket ballot failed you. Visit a lake or gravel pit instead: the natural world can easily match the Olympics for drama.

Great crested grebes are classy synchronised swimmers – to catch up with their performance, pick a cold, clear and windless day in March or April.

A pair is most likely to dance when the birds happen to surface near one another after diving for fish. Then, they won’t be able to help themselves…

The grebe dance: step by step

1. Facing one another, the grebes erect their frilly plumes and begin briskly shaking their heads from side to side.

2. The dance partners bow their heads and sway. Every so often, one of them reaches behind its neck and pretends to preen.

3. For the climax (not seen in every display) both birds dive, then rise up together with billfuls of weed.

4. Like all courtship, the dancing has a purpose. Mating is frequent and takes place on the grebes’ floating reedy nest.


Mike Dilger regularly features on BBC One’s The One Show

Click here to read the rest of our 52 Things To Do in 2012.

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