Australasian Crested Grebe Pūteketeke (Podiceps cristatus australis), Aotearoa New Zealand

The New Zealand Australasian Crested Grebe, Pūteketeke, (Podiceps cristatus australis) stands out as a remarkable and captivating bird among the myriad of native bird species that call these islands home.

Australasian Crested Grebe, Pūteketeke, (Podiceps cristatus australis) - Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy, South Island, New Zealand

Australasian Crested Grebe, Pūteketeke - Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy, Otago, South Island, New Zealand

Characterised by its striking appearance and fascinating behaviours, Australasian Crested Grebes have earned a special place in the hearts of many bird lovers, conservationists, bird photographers, and wildlife videographers.

Bird of the Year or Bird of the Century?

The Australasian crested grebe, pūteketeke, now has the title New Zealand Bird of the Century 2023 after getting the most public votes! This annual competition is usually called 'Bird of the Year' where everyone can vote on their favourite bird species. Bird of the Century in Maori is Te Manu Rongonui o Te Rautau.

Name, Species Name, and Family

Australasian Crested Grebe, Pūteketeke, Kāmana - Scientific Name: Podiceps cristatus australis - Family: Podicipedidae

The Australasian Crested Grebe is a subspecies of the Great Crested Grebe and is native to New Zealand.

Other Names for the Australasian Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe, pūteketeke, kāmana, kāmana aua

Rare New Zealand Australasian Crested Grebe Species

Australasian Crested Grebe Plumage, Pūteketeke, (Podiceps cristatus australis) - Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy Wharf, South Island, New Zealand

Pūteketeke, Australasian Crested Grebe Plumage - Glenorchy Wharf, Lake Wakatipu, NZ

Distinctive: The Crested Grebe has an elegant appearance and distinctive crested plumage, it is a bird that is difficult to mistake for any other species.

Crested Feathers: The name "crested" comes from the prominent chestnut and black plumes that adorn the Australasian Crested Grebe’s head during the breeding season. These plumes of feathers, which resemble "horns," are visually striking and serve as one of the features for identifying the bird.

Height: Standing at approximately 45-60 centimetres in height, these grebes are relatively small but possess an unmistakable grace.

Plumage: Their plumage is predominantly black on the upper parts and silver white colour on the underparts, with a distinct line of demarcation.

Eyes: During the breeding season, their eyes take on a fiery red hue, adding to their already remarkable appearance.

Unique Crested Grebe Courtship and Breeding Behaviour

What truly sets the Australasian Crested Grebe apart from other birds is its fascinating courtship and breeding behaviours.


These grebes are monogamous and engage in elaborate courtship displays that are fascinating to see and great for photography and videography. Their displays often involve synchronised dancing on water, with the grebes facing each other and shaking their heads while extending their long necks in an elegant and choreographed manner. The water dance is accompanied by a series of calls and vocalisations that reinforce the pair's bond.


Once paired, Australasian Crested Grebe build floating nests in shallow waters near the shore. These nests are constructed from aquatic plants, reeds, and other materials and are anchored to submerged vegetation.

Grebe Eggs and Chicks:

The female typically lays two to four eggs, and both female and male parents take turns incubating the eggs.

Grebe chicks, when hatched, are covered in soft downy feathers, with black and white stripes on head and neck with a grey body. They are highly dependent on their parents for food and protection. The chicks are funny little things and will often hitch a ride on the backs of their parents.

Australasian Crested Grebe Diet

Most of the diet of grebes consists of fish. They are known to sometimes also feed on aquatic invertebrates.

Pūteketeke, Australasian Crested Grebe bird diving for fish in Lake Wakatipu, (Podiceps cristatus australis) - Glenorchy, Otago, South Island, Aotearoa New Zealand

Australasian Crested Grebe Diving for Fish in Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy, Otago

Australasian Crested Grebe Sound

This sound of an adult male call was recorded on Lake Alexandrina.

Australasian crested grebe song (MP3, 862K) (opens new window)

Courtesy of Department of Conservation NZ

Challenges and Conservation Efforts

A lot of the issues mentioned here also apply to all the bird population of New Zealand.

Habitat Loss

While the Australasian Crested Grebe is a remarkable species, it faces several challenges in its native habitat. Habitat loss due to wetland drainage, water pollution, and human disturbance have all contributed to population declines.

Breeding and Nesting Disturbances

During the months from September to March grebes will be nesting and breeding. Tthese birds are sensitive to disturbances during their nesting and breeding seasons, making them vulnerable to recreational activities in their habitats such as boating.

Australasian Crested Grebe Protection and Preservation

Efforts to conserve this elegant bird have been under way for many years. In New Zealand, organisations like the Department of Conservation (DOC) have been actively involved in protecting and preserving the Australasian Crested Grebe and its habitat.

Measures include the establishment of protected areas, public education campaigns, and monitoring of nesting sites to minimise disturbance.

Lake Pearson/Moana Rua is one such designated refuge for protecting grebes in Canterbury


Please read Predators of New Zealand for a comprehensive look at the dangers birds face from introduced predators to this country.

Birdwatching, Photography, Survival, and Conservation Tourism

Tours and Excursions

For bird enthusiasts and nature lovers visiting New Zealand, observing the Australasian Crested Grebe in its natural habitat can be a truly rewarding experience. Several birdwatching tours and conservation-focused excursions are available, allowing visitors to witness the mesmerising courtship displays and nesting behaviours of these grebes while supporting their conservation.

Look at other birds you may encounter in New Zealand

Guidelines for Avoiding Disturbance

It is important for tourists, photographers, and birdwatchers to be respectful of all birds and their habitats. Adhering to guidelines provided by conservation organisations and maintaining a safe distance from nesting sites is crucial to ensure the well-being of birds and other wildlife.

There are often information boards, or warning signs, near known nesting sites of New Zealand birds so do look for signs.

Australasian Crested Grebe: A Symbol of New Zealand's Biodiversity

The Australasian Crested Grebe is not just a native bird; it's a symbol of New Zealand's rich biodiversity and the need for its preservation. Its striking appearance, unique behaviours, and ongoing conservation efforts make it a native bird that captivates the hearts and minds of people.

In a world where many bird species face the threat of extinction, the conservation of the Australasian Crested Grebe reminds us of the importance of protecting the natural world. As we appreciate the elegance and charm of grebes, we are also reminded of our responsibility to safeguard their habitats and ensure that they survive for future generations to enjoy.

So, the next time you find yourself in New Zealand, take a moment to explore its wetlands and see the Australasian Crested Grebe. In doing so, you'll not only have the privilege of observing a unique and beautiful bird but also contribute to the conservation of a species that symbolises the wonder and fragility of our natural world.

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List of native New Zealand birds and other wildlife in New Zealand