Grebes Courtship Display

July 27, 2021


Photographer: Mila Zinkova 

Summary Author: Mila Zinkova 

Western and Clark's Grebes both have a very elaborate courtship display. It culminates with the male and female rushing over the water, rising up on the water’s surface onto their feet, side by side “with wings held up and back, necks curved, pattering with their powerful feet in what looks like a perfect bird ballet." Click here to see a video of this amazing display.

A 2015 study explained the mechanisms that permit the grebes to “run” as they do: "First, rushing grebes use exceptionally high stride rates. Second, grebe foot size and high-water impact speed allow grebes to generate up to 30-55% of the required weight support through water slap alone. Finally, flattened foot bones reduce downward drag, permitting grebes to retract each foot from the water laterally." Running grebes can thus make between 14 and 20 steps per second.