Birdwatch: Slavonian grebe – splendour enhanced by rarity


There are fewer than 30 breeding pairs in Britain, and the one I saw at a Scottish loch was at its springtime finest

Chestnut flanks and neck. Ruby-red eyes. Dagger-like bill. And, on either side of its matt-black head, golden plumes shimmering in the Speyside sunshine. All wrapped up in a buoyant waterbird, gliding across the silky-smooth surface of the loch, before disappearing beneath, then yo-yoing into view again, with a tiny fish as its prize.

The Slavonian grebe’s splendour is enhanced by its rarity: there are fewer than 30 breeding pairs in Britain, spread out across the Scottish Highlands. Being relatively unknown, it might not win a competition for Britain’s most beautiful bird. But it would certainly give any other contenders a run for their money.

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