• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Little Grebe - BirdForum Opus

Nominate subspecies
Photo © by Nigel Pye
Cley, Norfolk, 5 May 2006
Tachybaptus ruficollis


Chick T. r. capensis
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Protected Water-body, Delhi, India, 16 August 2012

25–29 cm (9¾-11½ in)

  • Dark greyish-brown above
  • Paler below with tawny flanks
  • Blackish crown and hindneck
  • Chestnut throat, ear-coverts, and sides and front of neck
  • Black bill with white tip
  • Yellow gape patch
  • Olive-green legs


Common and widespread in the Old World.
Breeds widely across Europe from Iberia, the British Isles and southern Scandinavia eastwards including parts of Turkey and the Middle East. Breeds across southern Asia including much of India and Indochina to China, Korea and Japan. Has a scattered distribution in the Philippines, Indonesia (rare breeder on Java and Bali) and New Guinea. In Africa breeds across the north-west and in the Nile Delta and widespread south of the Sahara absent only from the driest or most heavily forested areas.

Vagrants recorded on the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands. Mainly resident with northernmost populations migratory or dispersive.


Sub-adult, subspecies poggei
Photo by SeeToh
Lorong Halus, Singapore, 17 June 2018


About nine subspecies recognised[1].

The last two subspecies have been proposed as a split called Tricolored Grebe, Tachybaptus tricolor.

  • One more subspecies, albescens has been proposed for the yellow/orange eyed Asian birds currently included by Clements in subspecies capensis (all other capensis have dark eyes). Under this classification capensis is restricted to Africa south of the Sahara and Madagascar while albescens is the race inhabiting the Caucasus east to Iran, Central and South Asia including Sri Lanka. IOC, H&M4 and Birdlife/HBW all adopt this classification and recognize albescens as valid.


Adult T. r. capensis
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Dist. Gurgaon, Haryana, India, 23 August 2016

Well-vegetated ponds and lakes, mainly in lowland areas.



Diet includes small fish and aquatic invertebrates.


Its nest is a heap of vegetation in reed beds or other marginal vegetation. 4-6 whitish initially soon becoming stained eggs are laid and are incubated by both sexes for 19-25 days.


Nominate subspecies
Photo by luca26
Adda River, Lombardia, Italy, 6 May 2018

whit-whit and in breeding season utters a whinnying trill, sometimes in duet.

Listen in an external program Little Grebe voice clip

Listen in an external program Little Grebe voice clip
Recording © by Alok Tewari
Dist. Gurgaon, Haryana, India, August 2016
Alarm call given by parent feeding chicks, on perceiving danger.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Birdforum thread discussing the taxonomy of Little Grebe
  3. Brazil, M.A. (1991) The Birds of Japan. Smithsonian Inst. Press.
  4. Llimona, F., del Hoyo, J., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52477 on 1 April 2019).

Recommended Citation

External Links