Grebes and divers

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Grebes are small to medium-sized water birds with sharp pointed beaks specialised for catching fish.

The commonest is the great crested grebe renowned for its complex and beautiful courtship dance performed in the spring. It breeds on large ponds and lakes.

The little grebe or dabchick is the smallest, often heard before being seen because of its loud bubbling or 'veeht veeht' calls. They are widespread in Essex, breeding on lakes and rivers.

Slavonian and black-necked grebes visit Essex out of the breeding season, Slavonians seem to especially like the Blackwater estuary but both can be seen in estuaries and large lakes. They are similar in size and often difficult to tell apart in winter plumage but black-necked has a much sharper up-turned bill.

Red-necked grebe is an uncommon visitor most likely to be seen in the autumn, it is a similar size to the great crested but has a thicker neck and heavier bill.

Divers are large birds completely adapted to living on and in the water and spend most of their time at sea, visiting our shores and reservoirs mainly in the winter.

The smaller two: red-throated diver which has an upturned beak and in flight the curious habit of continuously lifting up its head, and black-throated diver, both nest in Scotland. Red-throated can be quite numerous in Essex waters when the sprats are about.

The larger two, great northern diver and white-billed diver, both nest in the far north. White-billed is rarely seen but great northern is a regular Essex visitor in small numbers.

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