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Bird of The Month. The Great Crested Grebe. By John McEwen. Illustrated by Carry Akroyd.

Pursuits | By John McEwen


Bird of The Month. The Great Crested Grebe. By John McEwen. Illustrated by Carry Akroyd.

In her acceptance speech at the 2022 Oldie of the Year awards, Dame Jane Goodall said chimpanzees differ from humans by only just over one per cent. Her Kenyan mentor, Dr Louis Leakey, chose her to do the chimpanzee study because she had not been to university. So she had a mind uncluttered by the arrogant scientific assumption that animals are inferior to humans. She duly found animals – famously, chimpanzees – ‘more like us than we like to think’. Ethology is the scientific study of animal behaviour, often under natural conditions. One of its founding fathers was Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975), who in spring 1912 spent a fortnight’s holiday with his brother Trevenen studying the courtship of great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) on the four Tring Reservoirs, Hertfordshire. The resulting scientific paper, The Courtship Habits of the Great Crested Grebe, remains a milestone in ethological history. Huxley wrote, ‘A...


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