The Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), formerly known as the “˜dabchick’, is the smallest European member of the grebe family and is commonly found in open bodies of water across most of its range. This bird breeds in small colonies in heavily vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe, much of Asia down to New Guinea, and most of Africa. Most birds move to more open or coastal waters in winter, but it is only migratory in those parts of its range where the waters freeze.
Little Grebe is a small water bird with a pointed bill. The adult is unmistakable in summer, predominantly dark above with its rich, reddish-brown color neck, cheeks and flanks, and bright yellow gape. The reddish-brown is replaced by a dirty brownish gray in non-breeding and juvenile birds. Juvenile birds have a yellow bill with a small black tip, and black and white streaks on the cheeks and sides of the neck as seen below. This yellow bill darkens as the juveniles age, eventually turning black once in adulthood.
In winter, its size, buff plumage, with a darker back and cap, and “powder puff” rear end enable easy identification of this species. The Little Grebe’s breeding call, given singly or in duet, is a trilled repeated weet-weet-weet or wee-wee-wee which sounds like a horse whinnying. Little Grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish and aquatic invertebrate prey s underwater. It uses the vegetation skillfully as a hiding place.
Like all grebes, it nests on the water’s edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually four to seven eggs are laid, and the striped young are sometimes carried on the adult’s back. It does not normally interbreed with the larger grebes in the Old World, but a bird in Cornwall mated with a vagrant North American Pied-billed Grebe, producing hybrid young