Tachybaptus ruficollis - Little grebe:

Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Ciconiiformes / Podicipedidae / Tachybaptus / Species
Alternative Names Dabchick, Common grebe, Red-throated grebe, Dodaars (Dutch), Grèbe castageux (French), Zwergtaucher (German), Zampullin chico (Spanish), Zampullin común (Spanish), Smådopping (Swedish).
Description Weight:
  • 130-236g


  • 25-29cm

External Appearance:

  • Adult: Eye red-brown, Bill black, with tip white, base and adjacent skin yellow-green, legs green-black. Head, hindneck, upperparts glossy black, throat, ear-coverts, sides of neck chestnut, lower throat dark brown, sides of rump pale tawny patches, tail tuft black, underparts black with silvery mottling, palest on abdomen, ventral area grey, flanks washed light brown. Wings flight feathers brown grey, inner web of secondaries variable white, coverts and tertials dark brown.
  • Juvenile: Upperparts brown, underparts pale, head retains nestling pattern. Bill horn-brown
  • Nestling: Eye dark brown, bill yellow, faintly red, foot black. Upperparts stripy dark brown and pale, underparts white.

(B1, B2)

Range and Habitat
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis ruficollis Europe, from British Isles eastward to Urals, also north-west Africa.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis iraquenensis Iraq, northwestern Iran.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis capensis Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar, Caucasus through India and Sri Lanka to Myanmar.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis poggei South-east and north-east Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan, south Kuril Islands.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis philippensis northern Philippines.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis cotabato Mindanao (southeast Philippines).
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis tricolor Sulawesi to Seram and New Guinea, Lombok to Timor.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis vulcanorum Java to Timor.
  • Tachybaptus rufucollis collaris northeaster New Guinea to Bougainville Island (Solomon Islands).

In London: In the London Area, a "widespread breeding resident on most suitable waters, also passage migrant and winter visitor." Found at a variety of sites including Rainham Marshes (45 in once count in 2000), reservoirs, gravel pits, The Wetland Centre (WWT), and single birds in Inner London parks/gardens. (J322.65.w1)

Vagrants: northern Norway, Azores, Madeira, Canaries (nominate race).

Movements: Resident, dispersive or migratory.

Habitat: Marshes, ponds, lakes, canals, slow-moving rivers, ponds, gravel pits etc. also coasts and estuaries (not if strong waves). Prefer shallow water (less than one metre) and muddy bottoms with dense submerged vegetation; often found on small water areas.

(B1, B2, B19)

Further Information
  • Food: Insects and insect larvae, also molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians, small fish.
  • Feeding: Dive for food, also swimming with head submerged, and taking food from surface or emergent vegetation.
  • Breeding: Variable breeding season, depends on water level and growth of emergent vegetation. Western Palearctic - February to September (peak April to June); Japan - May to July, occasionally October to February; tropical Africa all months. Nest building and incubation (20-21 days) by both parents, usually 4-6 eggs, hatching asynchronous, young precocial and semi-nidifugous, both parents care for and feed, may be carried on back when small. Fledge 44-48 days, independant 30-40 days. Two broods, possibly occasionally three, with replacement laid if clutch lost.
  • Breeding behaviour: Monogamous pair bond, may be long lasting. Highly territorial while breeding
  • Social behaviour: Outside breeding season may be solitary, in pairs or in loose groups.

(B1, B2).

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

General Legislation:

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Individual techniques:

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