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Grebes

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

It is difficult to determine whether there is any long-term trends in numbers of this species, both as a breeder and winter visitor, but the population undoubtedly fluctuations. In winter, higher numbers are often observed during colder winters when it seems likely thta some move into the country from elsewhere.


It is currently a resident breeder. Seen most regularly on Loe Pool, in the Helford and at Hayle Kimbro and Croft Pascoe. Also occasionally recorded on Grade Marsh and Housel Bay Pond. In recent years, breeding has only been documented at Croft Pasco, with young seen in most years since 2010. It also bred at Hayle Kimbro in 1970 and attempted to do so in 2009. In the 1982/83 Lizard Breeding Bird Atlas period, breeding was also noted from a small pond north of Twenty Acre Plantation near St. Keverne. In 2020 two juveniles were seen in the Helford River.

Little Grebe, Loe Pool. Ilya Maclean


Historic (1982) confirmed breeding distribution of Little Grebe on the Lizard.


Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps

A 1st winter was on Loe Pool on 19th Nov-10th Dec 1996 (A Pay), found dead on 14th Dec. Both the wing and bill survive and are in the possession of a well-known Lizard birder.


Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena[BoCC5: Red]


This species has always been a scarce visitor to Cornwall with little evidence of a change in status. The favoured site appears to be between the Frenchman's Creek and the mouth of the Helford, as often as not quite close to the aptly named Grebe Beach near Durgan. Whether this beach was indeed named after the species is uncertain, though it is probably more likely that the name derives from 'grib' - Cornish for ridge. Records from the Helford are too numerous to list individually. Elsewhere, the most favoured site is Loe Pool with 11 records (all singles):


1959: 29th Dec-14th Mar 1960.

1965: 13th-20th Feb.

1974: 29th Dec-1st Jan 1975.

1979: 20th Feb.

1982: 12th-23rd Jan.

1986: 2nd-19th Apr.

1988: 6th Nov-1st Dec.

1992: 10th Oct.

1995: 7th Jan.

1997: 19th Oct-4th Nov.

2003: in Mar.


Elsewhere (all singles):


1979: 17th Mar (Loe Bar)

1980: 11th Jan (Loe Bar)

1995: 23rd Mar (Porthoustock)

1996: 21st Feb-2nd Mar (Kennack Sands)

2014: sometime in Feb (Lizard Point)

2015: 6th Dec (Lizard Point)

2017: 4th Feb and 17th Mar (Lizard Point).

2018: sometime in Feb (Lizard Point)

2019: 2nd Jun (Lizard Point).


Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Historically rare and up until recently, a non-breeding species, though has, since 2016, bred at Loe Pool, where it now regular and increasing. The first documented record for the Lizard Peninsula was one there on 28th Feb 1937. It also occurs sporadically in the Helford. Rare away from there with singles on the sea at Porthleven on 6th-20th Apr 2020 and past Lizard Point on 3rd May 2019. The highest count is of 29 at Loe Pool in Oct 2020 and 16th Jan 2021.

Great Crested Grebe, Loe Pool. Ilya Maclean


Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus [IUCN: VU][BoCC5: Red]

Historically rare in Cornwall, though whether this reflects lack of observer coverage or a change in status is less certain. Nevertheless Rodd (1880) describes it as rarer than Red-necked and Great Crested Grebe (the latter quite rare until recently).


Occurs sporadically in the Helford, mostly in winter. Elsewhere, the most favoured site is Loe Pool with 10 records (singles unless otherwise stated):


1959: 3rd Jan-7th Mar (up to 3).

1982: 1st Jan-17th Feb.

1988: 9th & 29th Oct.

1991: 2nd-14th Dec.

1992: 13th Oct.

1997: 16th Feb.

2003: 6th Jan.


Elsewhere (all singles):


1980: Jan-Feb (Loe Bar).

2004: 6th Feb (Church Cove).


This species has also once occurred in summer, with a breeding plumage bird at Gillan Creek on 22nd Jun-3rd Jul 1986.


Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis [BoCC5: Amber]

In Cornwall generally, recorded more frequently currently than in the 19th and early 19th centuries, though this is probably an artifact of observer coverage. On the Lizard, the favoured site is the at the begining of mouth of the Helford, with a highest count being of 5 there in Feb 2012.


Elsewhere, the most favoured site is Loe Pool with 20 records (singles unless otherwise stated):


1960: 9th Sep.

1982: 17th Feb.

1984: 18th Aug.

1987: 26th Sep.

1991: 28th Sep-19th Oct (up to 2).

1996: 5th-19th Apr.

1998: 25th Jan.

2001: 14th Jan (1), 14th Sep-8th Dec (up to 2).

2002: 16th Nov-23rd Feb 2003.

2003: 17th Aug (2), 14th Dec (1)

2005: 23rd Nov-9th Dec.

2006: Jan-Apr (up to 2).

2018: 10th Jan.


Elsewhere, singles at Helston Boating Lake on 18th Jan 1960, up to 4 at Bass Point on 7th-13th Aug 1980 and 1 at Pen-olver on 23rd Jan 1983.

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