Liv­ing (and danc­ing) to­gether

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - BIRDFAIR SPECIAL -

Hooded grebes are strictly colo­nial: a lone pair lack the nec­es­sary stim­u­la­tion to trig­ger courtship and nest­ing be­hav­iour. But when enough pairs are as­sem­bled at a suit­able lake, courtship be­gins abruptly and the colony be­comes a mael­strom of fran­tic ac­tiv­ity. Their dances are the most com­plex of any grebe – the or­nithol­o­gist RW Storer, who stud­ied the species in the 1980s, doc­u­mented 10 dis­tinct moves, in­clud­ing the “bouncy dive”, “pen­guin dance” and “dis­cov­ery cer­e­mony”. The bonded pairs then build their float­ing nests within the buoy­ant mil­foil beds. Dur­ing the 11-week chick­rear­ing pe­riod, adult grebes are moult­ing and flight­less, though chicks will ride on a par­ent’s back for safety.

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