The Great Crested Grebe is 46–51 centimetres (18–20 in) long with a 59–73 centimetres (23–29 in) wingspan. It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. The adults are unmistakable in summer with head and neck decorations. In winter, this is whiter than most grebes, with white above the eye, and a pink bill. It is the largest European grebe.
The young are remarkable because their heads are striped black and white, much like zebras. They lose these markings when they become adults.