Slavonian Grebe Card
Size: 297mm x 210mm
Original Painting Medium: Gouache
Scientific Name: Podiceps auritus
Region: U.K Scandinavia
The Slavonian Grebe is a very attractive bird. In winter, the adults cheeks are white but in breeding plumage they have glorious golden head-tufts with chestnut red neck and flanks. The beautiful plumage of the Grebe was both a challenge and a pleasure to portray. My portrait is of a Grebe in summer plumage, sitting on its nest and was portrayed using gouache.
The first breeding pair of Slavonian Grebes in the U.K were first seen in Scotland in 1908 and it is presumed that they came from the nearest foreign breeding grounds, Iceland or Scandinavia. Today there are fewer than 60 pairs, concentrated on shallow freshwater lochs in the remoter parts of Scotland.
After wintering on coastal waters, paired birds return to their breeding grounds. Before mating, they take part in an elaborate ritual of display ceremonies. Noted for their spectacular courtship displays, both sexes are involved in a variety of highly ritualized movements. They will face each other for long bouts of mutual head-shaking and also rush along side by side holding their bodies vertically almost out of the water.
Grebes spend almost their entire lives in water. Their nests of floating water-weed, sometimes only a few feet apart, are hidden amonstg rocks or among vegetation and are anchored to plants growing from the lake bottom. Egg numbers vary widely, but the usual clutch is four or five. Once hatched, the stripey chicks quickly leave the nest. Although they can swim and dive well, they are sensitive to cold water and spend most of the time on one of their parent's back, tucked under a wing. Grebes normally avoid danger by diving rather than by flying.
The major threat to the survival of Grebes is the destruction of their freshwater habitat. Human activities have a detrimental effect on the breeding success of many species, who will readily surrender their nest if disturbed. Being specialised feeders they are extremely sensitive to changes in their lake ecosystems, especially pollution and draining of their shallow breeding habitat. Slavonian Grebes main food is water insects, grubs and small fish. Two species of Grebe may already be extinct and three species are listed in the ICBP checklist for endangered birds.