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Overview

Brief Summary

The little grebe is not only the smallest grebe species found in the Netherlands, it is also its smallest water bird. In fact, it is no larger than a blackbird. Little grebes are good divers, often taking a 'running start' by jumping upwards before diving under.
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Biology

Grebes are primarily fish-eaters and the little grebe is no exception, but as it takes smaller fish than others in its family, they can establish themselves on ponds that are too small to accommodate big fish. This gives them a greater choice of habitat and means the little grebe has a more widespread distribution in the UK. However, they are quite shy birds and will often lurk within easy reach of cover along the margins of the water and will dive or disappear amongst the reeds when disturbed. The usual clutch consists of between four and six eggs, laid in April in a floating nest of vegetation anchored to submerged water plants. Young grebes are frequently carried on the adult birds' backs and are fed with small fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Grebes often give feathers to their chicks, which the young birds swallow in order to form a protective lining to their stomachs. This avoids the possibility of the stomach being damaged by the bones of their fish meals.
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Description

The little grebe is also known as the dabchick and is the smallest member of the grebe family. It is a dumpy little bird with a rather blunt-looking rear, a feature often accentuated by the bird's habit of fluffing up its rump feathers. From a distance, little grebes appear to be all black but through binoculars and in good light, you can make out a chestnut brown patch on the throat and side of the neck. The bird's flanks can also show pale brown and the rear end of the bird is much lighter, almost white. The corners of the bill have a prominent yellow 'gape' mark. In winter, the birds lose this summer plumage and become pale buff on their lower quarters while their back is a dirty brown. Chicks are covered in light grey down and have a distinctive striped head and neck like most young grebes.  All members of the family are accomplished divers and to assist them in swimming under water the bird's lobed feet are placed well back at the rear of their bodies. In fact, a grebe does not move very well on land and seldom comes ashore except to breed. The little grebe's presence is usually given away by their loud whinnying trill and their 'bee-eep' calls.
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Comprehensive Description

Longueur 25-29 cm, envergure 40-45 cm, poids moyen 130-190 g.

Les habitats recherchés sont variés mais les préférences en période de reproduction vont vers les plans d’eau ou les anses d’une profondeur inférieure au mètre et d’une superficie inférieure à l’hectare, avec des berges couvertes par la végétation aquatique. En période internuptiale, il exploite des milieux plus ouverts comme les lacs et les grands plans d’eau artificiels, ainsi que les estuaires et les côtes bien protégées.

L’alimentation consiste essentiellement en insectes et larves, mollusques (plus que les autres grèbes européens), crustacés, larves d’amphibiens et petits poissons. Les plongées sont courtes (10 à 25 s) et atteignent rarement 2 m de profondeur.

L’espèce est faiblement grégaire. Après la reproduction, elle est solitaire ou en groupes lâches atteignant la trentaine d’individus (maximum de 700). Les juvéniles émancipés se regroupent fréquemment dans des zones à fortes potentialités alimentaires, de même que les adultes pendant la mue postnuptiale. Le Grèbe castagneux est monogame et fortement territorial. Il occupe s’il le peut le même territoire tout au long de l’année. Des cas de colonies lâches sont signalés, les couples défendant alors uniquement les abords du nid.

Le nid est une plate-forme flottante amarrée à la végétation aquatique ou à des branchages. Les œufs sont pondus à partir d’avril (rarement dès la fin février). Il y a 2 pontes annuelles de 4 à 6 œufs (2 à 7, max. 10), incubés 3 semaines. Les jeunes sont volants au bout de 44 à 48 jours.

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The little grebe is also known as the dabchick and is the smallest member of the grebe family. It is a dumpy little bird with a rather blunt-looking rear, a feature often accentuated by the bird’s habit of fluffing up its rump feathers. From a distance, little grebes appear to be all black but through binoculars and in good light, you can make out a chestnut brown patch on the throat and side of the neck. The bird’s flanks can also show pale brown and the rear end of the bird is much lighter, almost white. The corners of the bill have a prominent yellow ‘gape’ mark. In winter, the birds lose this summer plumage and become pale buff on their lower quarters while their back is a dirty brown. Chicks are covered in light grey down and have a distinctive striped head and neck like most young grebes.

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Distribution

Range

The little grebe can be found across most of Britain and Ireland with the exception of Shetland and parts of the West Country. Its European range extends from southern Scandinavia across to the Baltic States, and south to the Mediterranean, Turkey and Israel. The birds also occur in Africa, on the islands of the Mediterranean and across Asia to Japan and Papua New Guinea.
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Subspecies and Distribution:


    *ruficollis (Pallas, 1764) - Europe E to Urals, NW Africa. *iraquensis (Ticehurst, 1923) - Iraq, SW Iran. *capensis (Salvadori, 1884) - Africa S of Sahara, Madagascar; Caucasus through India and Sri Lanka to Burma. *poggei (Reichenow, 1902) - SE & NE Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan and S Kuril Is. *philippensis (Bonnaterre, 1791) - N Philippines. *cotabato (Rand, 1948) - Mindanao (SE Philippines). *tricolor (G. R. Gray, 1861) - Sulawesi to Seram and N New Guinea; Lombok to Timor. *vulcanorum (Rensch, 1929) - Java to Timor. *collaris (Mayr, 1945) - NE New Guinea to Bougainville I (Solomon Is).


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Physical Description

Size

25-29 cm, 130-236 g

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Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 20-29 cm. Head rounded, neck short. Colour: Adult breeding: dark brown above, dusky below, with rufous throat and foreneck; adult non-breeding: as above but sides of head, neck and breast brownish buff, throat whitish; juvenile: like non-breeding adult, but head and neck streaked with dull black. Bill stubby, black with a greenish base and cream gape; legs and feet black. Habitat: water bodies, including coastal estuaries, with some emergent vegetation or overhanging plants. (<313><318>)
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
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The little grebe is also known as the dabchick and is the smallest member of the grebe family. It is a dumpy little bird with a rather blunt-looking rear, a feature often accentuated by the bird’s habit of fluffing up its rump feathers. From a distance, little grebes appear to be all black but through binoculars and in good light, you can make out a chestnut brown patch on the throat and side of the neck. The bird’s flanks can also show pale brown and the rear end of the bird is much lighter, almost white. The corners of the bill have a prominent yellow ‘gape’ mark. In winter, the birds lose this summer plumage and become pale buff on their lower quarters while their back is a dirty brown. Chicks are covered in light grey down and have a distinctive striped head and neck like most young grebes.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is sedentary, locally dispersive or fully migratory depending on the winter temperatures of its breeding grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Some dispersive movements in Africa are also related to seasonal rains and the appearance of temporary wetlands (Brown et al. 1982). The species breeds in solitary pairs, the timing of breeding varying geographically and depending on the growth of emergent vegetation and water-levels (del Hoyo et al. 1992). After breeding the species undergoes a flightless wing-moulting period during which it may assemble in loose groups (Fjeldsa 2004) (up to 700 individuals) (Snow and Perrins 1998) in rich feeding areas (Fjeldsa 2004). During the winter the species is largely solitary or occurs in small groups of 5-30 individuals (Brown et al. 1982, Snow and Perrins 1998). Habitat The species inhabits a wide range of small and shallow wetlands (del Hoyo et al. 1992) usually less than 1 m deep (Fjeldsa 2004) with rich vegetation (floating, submerged and emergent) and high densities of aquatic invertebrates, generally avoiding waters with large predatory fish (Konter 2001). Suitable habitats include small lakes, ponds, the sheltered bays and vegetated shores (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of larger freshwater, alkaline or saline lakes (Brown et al. 1982) and reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), slow-flowing rivers (Konter 2001), canals (del Hoyo et al. 1992), flood-plain oxbows, coastal brackish lagoons (Brown et al. 1982), seasonally inundated areas, swamps (Fjeldsa 2004), gravel pits (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004), sewage lagoons (Fjeldsa 2004) and rice-fields (Brown et al. 1982). Outside of breeding season it is common on more open waters and is occasionally observed along the coast in estuaries or sheltered bays protected from strong wave action (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When moulting the species requires rich feeding areas (Fjeldsa 2004). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of adult and larval insects, especially mayflies, stoneflies, water bugs, beetles, flies, caddisflies and dragon flies, as well as molluscs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. freshwater snails) (Fjeldsa 2004), crustaceans, adult and juvenile amphibians (e.g. small frogs and newts) and occasionally small fish (up to 11 cm) (del Hoyo et al. 1992) during the winter (Konter 2001). Breeding site The nest is a floating platform of aquatic plant matter (del Hoyo et al. 1992) anchored to emergent vegetation (Fjeldsa 2004), submerged branches or bushes close to the edge of shallow wetlands (Brown et al. 1982). Management information In France it was found that the presence of aquatic macrophytes was the most important factor in attracting the species to new artificial habitats (such as gravel pits) (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Any lake or reasonably large pond in the lowlands with plenty of vegetation is likely to have at least one pair of little grebes in residence. They can often be seen on park ponds, flooded gravel pits and reservoirs, and have also turned up on coastal bays and estuaries.
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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.

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Trophic Strategy

Insects and insect larvae, also molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians, small fish. Dive for food, also swimming with head submerged, and taking food from surface or emergent vegetation.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 13.5 years (wild)
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Reproduction

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.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Tachybaptus ruficollis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNTATACCTAATTTTCGGCGCATGAGCAGGCATAGTCGGCACCGCCCTAAGCCTGCTAATCCGTGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCAGGAACCCTTCTAGGAGACGACCAGATCTACAATGTAATCGTCACTGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTAATACCAATCATAATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGGCTAGTCCCCCTAATAATTGGAGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCCCGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTTCTTCCTCCATCCTTCCTGCTCCTCCTAGCCTCATCAACAGTAGAAGCAGGAGCAGGCACAGGATGGACCGTATACCCACCACTAGCAGGCAATCTAGCCCATGCTGGTGCCTCAGTAGATCTAGCCATCTTTTCACTACACCTAGCAGGTGTATCCTCAATTCTAGGGGCAATTAACTTCATCACAACCGCTATCAACATAAAACCACCAGCCCTCTCACAATACCAAACTCCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATCACTGCCGTCTTACTGCTACTTNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Tachybaptus ruficollis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Status in Egypt

Resident breeder and winter visitor.

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Status

Classified as a Species of Conservation Importance (EU); receives general protection in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended).
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Not Threatened.

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Population

Population
The global population is estimated to number c.610,000-3,500,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Taiwan; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Korea; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Japan and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of this viurs (Melville and Shortridge 2006). Utilisation The species is hunted for commercial (sold as food) and recreational purposes Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).
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Little grebes are not thought to be threatened in the UK, although they are listed as a Species of European Conservation Concern. As water birds they are susceptible to pollution caused by agricultural run-off and any chemical that may find its way into their habitats.
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Management

Conservation

The population status of the little grebe in Britain and Ireland is believed to be about 10,000 pairs (1999 figures). However, as the birds are fairly secretive this figure may underestimate the true numbers. The birds enjoy general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) in the UK.
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Wikipedia

Little grebe

T. r. capensis with two juveniles in Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh, India
T. r. capensis in non-breeding plumage, preening after a bath in an Indian Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) Pond in Hyderabad, India
Little Grebes swim together in Singanallur Lake, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu India

The little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), also known as dabchick, is a member of the grebe family of water birds. At 23 to 29 cm in length it is the smallest European member of its family. It is commonly found in open bodies of water across most of its range.

Description[edit]

The little grebe is a small water bird with a pointed bill. The adult is unmistakable in summer, predominantly dark above with its rich, rufous colour neck, cheeks and flanks, and bright yellow gape. The rufous is replaced by a dirty brownish grey 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.

Taxonomy[edit]

There are nine currently-recognized subspecies of little grebe, separated principally by size and colouration.[2]

  • T. r. ruficollis is found from Europe and western Russia south to North Africa.[3]
  • T. r. iraquensis is found in southeastern Iraq and southwestern Iran.[3]
  • T. r. capensis is found in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Indian subcontinent, extending east to Burma.[3]
  • T. r. poggei is found from southeastern to northeastern Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan, and south Kuril Islands.[3]
  • T. r. philippensis is found in the northern Philippines.[3]
  • T. r. cotobato is found on Mindanao.[3]
  • T. r. tricolor is found from Sulawesi to New Guinea and the Lesser Sundas.[3]
  • T. r. volcanorum is found from Java to Timor.[3]
  • T. r. collaris is found from northeastern New Guinea to Bougainville.[3]

Distribution[edit]

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. Outside of breeding season, it moves into more open water, occasionally even appearing on the coast in small bays.[1]

Behaviour[edit]

The little grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver and pursues its fish and aquatic invertebrate prey underwater. It uses the vegetation skilfully as a hiding place.

Like all grebes, it nests at the water's edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually four to seven eggs are laid. When the adult bird leaves the nest it usually takes care to cover the eggs with weeds. This makes it less likely to be detected by predators.[4] The young leave the nest and can swim soon after hatching, and chicks are often carried on the backs of the swimming adults.[5] In India, the species breeds during the rainy season.[6]

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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Tachybaptus ruficollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Ogilvie, Malcolm; Chris Rose (2003). Grebes of the World. Bruce Coleman. ISBN 1-872842-03-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (6 ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4501-9. 
  4. ^ Prokop P & A Trnka (2011). "Why do grebes cover their nests? Laboratory and field tests of two alternative hypotheses". J. Ethol. 29: 17–22. doi:10.1007/s10164-010-0214-4. 
  5. ^ Finn, Frank (1905). "Notes on the nesting of the Indian Dabchick". Bird Notes 4: 10–17. 
  6. ^ Dalgliesh, Gordon (1906). "Notes on the Indian Podicipedidae". The Avicultural Magazine 5 (2): 65–72. 
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