Grebes’ legs are so far back on its body it can hardly walk, making breeding on land a challenge. Wānaka has built floating nest mounds to help them out!
In 2012 retired zoologist John Darby and volunteers made floating wooden platforms to create artificial nest sites for the Grebes around Wānaka marina. The project has so far resulted in 70 breeding attempts and 153 chicks being fledged from the marina.
Crested grebes are extinct in the North Island and are endangered in the South due to predation by stoats and ferrets, loss of shoreline nesting habitat and disturbance by boats. Now in his 80s, Mr Darby has begun the process of handing the project, particularly the heavy work, over to Wanaka Primary School teacher Markus Hermanns.
In spring (Nov 2020) Wanaka’s great crested grebe population was having the latest start to the breeding season since the first year the Lake Wanaka marina grebes project began. Project founder John Darby said the grebes had “finally come out of lockdown” with the first recorded egg of the season on October 28 2020.
“This is the eighth year of the project and the first time other than the first year of my study, which started in October 2013, that birds have not bred in September and only just made it into October. Our records to date show that 12% of all eggs are laid in August-September and a further 19% in October, so everything is well behind the norm.”
Latest News: The Grebes in Lake Hāwea on the new breeding platforms are thriving. Read all about it here.