Living (and dancing) together
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.