The Cardiff Bay Wetlands reserve is a great place to watch wild birds minutes from the city centre, including one of our cities more flamboyant characters, the Great Crested Grebe.
During spring and summer these waterbirds develop ravishing rusty red plumage on their heads as part of an elaborate courtship ritual. They dance in the water and fluff up their head feathers to make themselves look as fabulous as possible.
But during winter it’s more of a subdued affair. Not needing their best get up, they opt for a monochrome palette, but are still identifiable from other grebe type birds by their long pointed beak, white neck and black head crest. This time of year they’ll be focusing on surviving the winter, which means a lot of eating! Which brings me to the grebe I bumped into in the bay.
This grebe was prowling along the reed-beds, the perfect place for small fish to feed and hide – or so they think! Grebe’s are so fast in the water, with their feet set far back on their bodies, streamlining them for speed. As soon as it saw a flick of movement, the grebe plunged quickly into the reeds, heading under the water for around a minute, and then reappeared with a huge fish filling it’s whole beak!
To finish the job, it kept dunking the fish underwater and rearranging it in its beak to get the fish down. It took a minute or so of shuffling and readjusting before dinner went down the hatch in one!
It’s great that we can get so up close to moments like this in the green spaces in our city. Soon the birds will start thinking about breeding season and competing for mates, so there will be a whole host of other behaviours to watch out for!
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