Known as the horned grebe in North America because of its gorgeous breeding season headgear, the Slavonian is a scarce nester on a few Scottish lochs.
What to look for
Most of a Slavonian grebe’s breeding plumage majors on rich chestnut and black, topped by a pale golden sweep of feathers that flares back from behind the vivid red eyes. For autumn and winter, Slavonians replace the warm summer tones with more muted black, white and grey, but retain their vermillion eye colour.
Slavonian grebes are widespread across the ‘boreal’ zone of the northern world (where pine, spruce and birch trees dominate the forests). Scotland is at the Atlantic edge of this huge range.
When and where to see
Most of Scotland’s Slavonian grebes breed on a handful of food-rich lochs near the north-east end of the Great Glen. Spectacular displays, when both birds in a pair match the moves of the other, are best seen in early summer. By mid-summer, you might be lucky to see chicks hitching a ride on a parent’s back.
In winter, use a telescope to look for Slavs offshore at places such as the Moray Firth coast between Inverness and Buckie.
Best Slavonian grebe viewing in Scotland is at the RSPB’s Loch Ruthven reserve, south-west of Inverness, where you can use a hide and learn more about these beautiful water birds.
For more information see the RSPB's slavonian grebe page.