email a friend
printable version
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Distribution and population
The Great Crested Grebe is found across most of Europe and central Asia, though it also winters in parts of southern Asia (e.g. northern India). Colonies can also be found scattered through Africa, from Tunisia and Egypt in the north, through a few scattered colonies in central Africa to South Africa. Nesting colonies are also found in southern Australia and New Zealand, with individuals wintering in eastern and northern Australia (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.920,000-1,400,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in China; < c.50 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in Taiwan; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Korea; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Japan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing or have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour The majority of this species is fully migratory although some populations may only undergo local dispersive movements (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It breeds between April and September in Europe, in all months of the year in Africa (peaking during long rainy season) and from November to March in Australasia, nesting either in solitary, dispersed pairs or in loose colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (forming only where safe nesting sites are few and feeding areas are extensive) (Fjeldsa 2004). After breeding (from August to October) (Fjeldsa 2004) adults may disperse locally to large lakes and reservoirs to undergo a flightless moulting period (del Hoyo et al. 1992), during which gatherings of hundreds of individuals(occasionally even greater than 10,000) may form (Fjeldsa 2004). During the winter the species largely remains solitary (Snow and Perrins 1998), especially when feeding (Fjeldsa 2004), but temporary congregations (Snow and Perrins 1998) of up to 5,000 individuals may form in some areas (Fjeldsa 2004).Habitat Breeding The species breeds on fresh or brackish waters with abundant emergent and submerged vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998), showing a preference for non-acidic eutrophic waterbodies with flat or sloping banks and muddy or sandy substrates (Snow and Perrins 1998), usually 0.5-5 m deep (Snow and Perrins 1998) and with large areas of open water (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Suitable habitats include small pools or lakes, backwaters of slow-flowing rivers and artificial waterbodies (e.g. reservoirs, fish-ponds, gravel pits and ornamental lakes) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). In Australia the species also utilises swamps, reservoirs, lagoons, salt-fields, estuaries and bays (Marchant and Higgins 1990), and in tropical Africa and New Zealand it may breed on montane, subalpine and alpine lakes up to 3,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Non-breeding The species overwinters on large exposed ice-free (Fjeldsa 2004) lakes and reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998), moving to sheltered coastal inshore waters (Snow and Perrins 1998) less than 10 m deep (Fjeldsa 2004) such as brackish estuaries (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998), deltas, tidal channels and tidal lagoons (Snow and Perrins 1998) during cold spells (Fjeldsa 2004). In addition it frequents large saline lakes in Australia (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of large fish as well as insects, crustaceans (e.g. crayfish, shrimps) and molluscs, occasionally also adult and larval amphibians (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species's invertebrate consumption is highest during the breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a platform of aquatic plant matter either floating on water and anchored to emergent vegetation or built from the lake bottom in shallow water (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Typical nest sites include reedbeds or flooded thickets as well as more open sites such as floating mats of water-weed or kelp fronds (Fjeldsa 2004).

The species suffered declines in the nineteenth century as a result of hunting for the plume trade (this is no longer a threat) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species was also hunted in the past for food in New Zealand, a threat that although past is still limiting to the New Zealand population when combined with the modern threats of low food availability, modification of lakes for recreational purposes (del Hoyo et al. 1992), hydroelectric development and the introduction of competitors (e.g. trout) and predators (e.g. weasels, cats and rats) (Fjeldsa 2004). The species is commonly drowned accidentally in monofilament gill-nets (fishing nets) (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Fjeldsa 2004) with mesh sizes greater than 5 cm (Quan et al. 2002). It may also be threatened by future coastal oil spills (Gorski et al. 1977), and is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). Utilisation The species is hunted for commercial (food) and recreational purposes in Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Balmaki, B.; Barati, A. 2006. Harvesting status of migratory waterfowl in northern Iran: a case study from Gilan Province. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 868-869. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Fjeldså, J. 2004. The grebes. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Gorski, W.; Jakuczun, B.; Nitecki, C.; Petryna, A. 1977. Investigation of oil pollution on the Polish Baltic coast in 1974-1975. Przeglad Zoologiczny 21(1): 20-23.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Quan, R. C.; Wen, W.; Yang, X. 2002. Effects of human activities on migratory waterbirds at Lashihai Lake, China. Biological Conservation 108: 273-279.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Vahatalo, A. V.; Rainio, K.; Lehikoinen, A.; Lehikoinen, E. 2004. Spring arrival of birds depends on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Avian Biology 35: 210-216.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L., Calvert, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Podiceps cristatus. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Podicipedidae (Grebes)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Unknown
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 28,300,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment