Bird Families

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis


After a hot and sultry summer, resort Anapa goes into hibernation. The flow of people is gradually subsiding, colorful umbrellas are being taken apart on the beaches, tourists are spending more and more time in warm cafes and restaurants. Walking along the autumn and winter beach is becoming a favorite hobby of the remaining vacationers. The meeting with a variety of birds that have come to love the beaches of Anapa helps to combine useful and health-improving pastime in the fresh air and the cognitive part of the rest. Beautiful and rare birds winter here in the ice-free bay. In winter, in Anapa, you can hand feed proud swans, admire the beauty of ducks and dives, watch the dexterity of local seagulls. Among all this commotion, one may not notice a rare waterfowl, which is not very flatteringly nicknamed toadstool. On the windy shores of the Black Sea, you can find two types of toadstools: black-necked and gray-cheeked. Today we will tell you about the black-necked toadstool, defining the appearance of which you can also recognize the gray-cheeked sister.


Toadstool is a small black-necked bird that dives and swims among other birds asking for bread. It is very easy to spot a sea toadstool by its glowing red eyes. Sometimes in a crowd of birds, it seems that this little bird has gathered for Halloween. The winter outfit for a black-necked toadstool is dark with white inserts on the sides and neck. But when spring comes and the male chooses a bride for himself, long golden feathers grow on his head and wings.

Toadstools are waterfowl, but you won't find membranes on your feet. Nature has provided oar-shaped appendages on each toadstool's toe, which perfectly help to dive under water.

Another difference between a toadstool and a duck or a seagull is the location of the legs when the bird is in the water, the legs stick out like motors parallel to the water, other waterfowl have their legs under the water.

The beak of toadstools looks peculiar. It seems to be turned upward, this impression is created due to the convexity of the lower mandible.


Toadstools are guests of Anapa, they come to us from the Lower Volga region for the winter. Birds spend more time in the water, even sleeping in the quiet bays of the resort town. In rare cases, they come ashore, but due to the structure of the paws, they move clumsily on land. They are saved from predators and other danger by a sharp dive into the water, where they spend up to 30 seconds.

Sea waters for the black-necked grebe are the main source of food, here in shallow water there are always enough fry, crustaceans, arthropods. In difficult times, the bird does not disdain algae and grass. In Anapa, grebes can be seen from November to early April, then the colonies gather in flocks and migrate to their permanent nesting site. Moreover, the flights are made at night, so the specialists have difficulties with observing the birds.
The main enemies of small birds are crows.

Interesting Facts

And yet, why such beautiful and miniature birds got the name - toadstools. There is an assumption that our hungry ancestors, who ate everything that moves and flies, could not appreciate the taste of poultry meat. It turned out that animals have unusually bitter and smelly meat, hence the mushroom nickname.

It is interesting to observe in Anapa how toadstools warm their paws. Unlike ducks, which hide their flippers under the fluff, the black-necked grebe pulls them out of the water to the sides.

When cleaning their plumage, sea toadstools often swallow small fluffs, which help the birds in digestion and prevent the sharp fish bones from injuring the stomach. Ducks swallow small stones for this purpose.


Black-necked toadstool (Podiceps nigricollis) - a small bird: its body length reaches 28-34 cm, weight ranges from 250 to 600 g. In winter, it is distinguished by a slightly upturned dark gray beak, a gray cap extending below the level of the eyes, and a gray neck in front. In spring, the entire upper body of the black-necked toadstool is black, the sides are red, the belly is white, behind the eyes there are bunches of thin, golden feathers. The beak of this bird is dark gray, the legs are blackish, the eyes are red. Male and female are colored the same. Most of the time, the black-necked grebe spends on the water, rarely comes ashore. In case of danger, it prefers to dive rather than take off, although it rises from the water more easily than other toadstools, and is able to make long flights.


Black-necked toadstool breeds in Europe, central and southern Asia, most of Africa, southern and southwestern USA, and northern South America. In the north of the range, it is a migratory bird. This bird is an inhabitant of water bodies of the steppes, forest-steppe and the south of the forest zone. It nests on various, more often flat lakes - small and large, fresh and brackish water, at slowly flowing rivers, along backwaters and channels. Less than other grebes, it is associated with thickets of emergent vegetation.


Black-necked toadstools - colonial birds, but they can also nest in separate pairs, as well as in colonies of gulls or terns. The nest is common for all grebes - a floating platform made of dead aquatic vegetation. Often it is located on the raft. Both birds are involved in the construction of the nest. Clutch usually consists of 3-4 eggs. Freshly laid eggs are dull white, but soon they become greenish and even brownish-brown, almost black, as the shell is soiled with wet nest material. Both parents incubate the clutch for 20-22 days. When a person approaches, the bird usually covers the eggs with nesting material and swims to the side, hiding in the thickets. Downy chicks have “plaques” of bare skin on their foreheads, which help them maintain the desired body temperature; when the chick overheats, the plaque turns red, and when it cools, it turns pale. Having hatched and dried up, the chicks climb onto the backs of their parents sitting in the nest. Often, the brood is divided in two - part of the chicks is led by the female, the other part is led by the male. Chicks become independent at about three weeks of age.


Nutritional Basis black-necked toadstool - aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, less often tadpoles and fish fry. These birds feed their chicks mainly with larvae of aquatic insects.

Feature and Description

The black-necked grebe is a medium-sized bird, with an average body weight of 300 to 400 grams. The length of the bird can reach a maximum of 34 cm with the tail. The wingspan is up to 60 cm.

The beak is slightly upturned, thin and short, black, but in winter it acquires a gray-horny color. The head is large and round in comparison with the body. The neck is thin and appears to be short when the bird does not stretch it.

The color of the eyes in adults is bright red, and in young animals it is brown.


The color of the plumage of the bird of the black-necked toadstool changes depending on the season. In autumn and winter, the back, head, sides and lower abdomen are lighter. In spring, the feathers on the neck and head are black, the sides acquire a reddish tint. A black crest appears on the head, which is, as it were, inlaid with bunches of golden feathers, visible from the back of the head to the eyes. The bird often spreads its feathers and at such moments it appears completely round.

By the period of mating games, the color of birds is dominated by black. It has reddish sides and a white belly, which can only be seen when the bird is cleaning its feathers.


The black-necked toadstool makes a hoarse-whistling sounds. Sometimes chirping is like a tongue twister.

In the spring season, it emits loud whistling sounds, reminiscent of "pee-pee", which gradually turn into "pee-pee". Sometimes the bird grumbles softly: "trrr".


In our country, you can see the black-necked toadstool (photo is given in the article) on the shores of the Azov and Black seas. The nesting borders are along the latitude of St. Petersburg.

The bird prefers flat and fresh lakes, but feels great on brackish waters and on the sea coasts. In comparison with other species of ducks, this bird is least of all tied to emerging thickets, except for the period of laying eggs. Often settles in ponds where fish are raised, or in floodplain lakes.

Toadstools prefer to settle close to the habitat of gulls and terns. They behave quite peacefully in relation to other species of birds. They can settle in open water, but this is extremely rare.

In the southern parts of the range, birds migrate in November; in more northern latitudes, it begins in August and lasts until September.

Behavior and nutrition

The legs of the species are located closer to the back of the body, which makes walking difficult. As a result, the black-necked grebe spends most of its life on the water. This is 9-10 months per year. In addition, these birds do not like to fly at all. In case of danger, they prefer to dive instead of soaring into the air. But if they take off, they do it easily. During the migration period, they cover up to 6 thousand km and feel quite comfortable at the same time.

They prefer to live in reservoirs overgrown with vegetation. For these purposes, floodplain lakes and fish breeding ponds are most often chosen. If the lake is large, then bays densely overgrown with vegetation are selected. The diet is mainly composed of aquatic invertebrates. Fish is eaten much less often.

Conservation status

The number of this species is kept at a stable level. However, in some areas there is a decrease in the number of these birds due to the modification of reservoirs and the introduction of drainage systems. Black-necked grebes are protected by law in many countries, which has a positive effect on the conservation of these unique birds.