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Species Guide
A photo of a Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Little Grebe

Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis

The Little Grebe, or Tachybaptus ruficollis, known colloquially as the dabchick, is the smallest European member of the grebe family. This diminutive water bird measures a mere 23 to 29 centimeters in length and is a common sight in open bodies of water across its range.

Identification Tips

In the summer, the adult Little Grebe is a sight to behold with its dark upper parts and a striking rufous coloration on the neck, cheeks, and flanks, complemented by a bright yellow gape. Outside of the breeding season, the plumage turns to a more subdued brownish-grey. Juveniles can be identified by their yellow bills tipped with black and streaked cheeks. In winter, the species is recognizable by its buff plumage, darker back and cap, and distinctive rear end.


The Little Grebe favors heavily vegetated areas of freshwater lakes for breeding. It is adept at using this dense vegetation as a cover.


This bird has a broad range, breeding across Europe, much of Asia down to New Guinea, and most of Africa. In winter, many individuals move to open or coastal waters, and it becomes migratory in regions where waters freeze.


An excellent swimmer and diver, the Little Grebe hunts for fish and aquatic invertebrates underwater. It nests at the water's edge, covering its eggs with weeds when leaving the nest to evade predators. The young are capable swimmers soon after hatching and are often seen riding on the backs of adults.

Song & Calls

The breeding call of the Little Grebe is a distinctive trilled weet-weet-weet or wee-wee-wee, reminiscent of a horse's whinny.


Breeding occurs in small colonies. The Little Grebe lays four to seven eggs, and the chicks are precocial, swimming shortly after hatching. In India, the species breeds during the monsoon season.

Similar Species

The Little Grebe could be confused with other grebe species, but its small size and distinctive breeding plumage make it unique.

Diet and Feeding

Its diet consists primarily of fish and aquatic invertebrates, which it hunts proficiently underwater.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Little Grebe as Least Concern, indicating a stable population across its wide range.

Little Grebe Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Little Grebes on Birda


More Grebes

A photo of a Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)

Clark's Grebe

Aechmophorus clarkii
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