Podiceps cristatus (Great crested grebe) 

Kuifkopdobbertjie [Afrikaans]; Nyakupetana, Ripetani [Tsonga]; Fuut [Dutch]; Grèbe huppé [French]; Haubentaucher [German]; Mergulhão-de-crista [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes  > Family: Podicipedidae

Podiceps cristatus (Great crested grebe)  Podiceps cristatus (Great crested grebe)
Great crested grebe, Ceres, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Great-crested grebe, Botswana. [photo Mike Grimes ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of the Old World, in Australia, Eurasia and sub-Saharan Africa: from Ethiopia to Tanzania and eastern DRC. It has an isolated population in southern Africa, centred around the Western Cape and Gauteng (extending into south-eastern Botswana), while more scarce elsewhere in southern Africa. It generally favours large inland lakes, dams and pans, especially if fringed with vegetation; it occasionally moves to saltpans.

Distribution of Great crested grebe in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Generally resident and nomadic, sometimes travelling long distances to reach seasonally flooded areas.


It almost exclusively eats small fish, caught by diving in stints of about 20-25 seconds. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • small fish
    • tadpoles
  • Invertebrates
    • crustaceans
    • aquatic insects


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary or gregarious nester, as multiple pairs may breed a few metres apart. Like many grebes it performs an elaborate courtship display.
  • The nest (see images below) is built by both sexes in roughly eight days of the courtship period, consisting of a platform of reeds (Phragmites), bulrushes (Typha) and other material, such as khaki weed (Tagetes) and grass, although it may be made entirely of soft plants including pondweed (Potamogeton). It is typically attached to water plants or submerged woody shrubs in open water, and has to be constantly maintained to prevent it from sinking into the water.
Podiceps cristatus (Great crested grebe) Podiceps cristatus (Great crested grebe) 
Great-crested grebe nest with eggs, Naboomspruit, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©] Great crested grebe on nest. [photo Peter Steyn ©]
  • Egg-laying season is year-round in Botswana, from October-December in the Western Cape and mainly from March-July elsewhere in South Africa.
  • It lays 2-7 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 27-30 days.
  • The chicks slip into the water almost immediately after hatching, and are regularly carried on the back of either adult for up to two weeks; the adult not on carrying duty fishes and gives the food to the other parent and chicks. Once they reach about 28-42 days old, the brood are divided into two groups, each cared for by a parent. They can forage for themselves at approximately 56 days old and can fly at about 70-79 days old, becoming fully independent a few weeks later.


Not threatened, although it often leaves bodies of water which are used regularly by humans for recreation.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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