Tachybaptus ruficollis Pallas, 1764
Common names: Little Grebe, Dabchick [En], Grèbe castagneux [Fr], Dodaars [Nl], Zwergtaucher [De], Tuffetto comune [It], Zampullín Común [Es], Νανοβουτηχτάρι [Gr], Küçük batağan [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Parc du Marquenterre, SOMME ● France
Description: At 23 to 29 cm in length it is the smallest European member of its family. 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 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.
There are nine currently-recognized subspecies of little grebe, separated principally by size and colouration:
• T. r. ruficollis Pallas, 1764 – nominate, found from Europe and western Russia south to North Africa;
• T. r. iraquensis Ticehurst, 1923 – southeastern Iraq and southwestern Iran;
• T. r. capensis Salvadori, 1884 – Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Indian subcontinent, extending east to Burma;
• T. r. poggei Reichenow, 1902 –from southeastern to northeastern Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan, and south Kuril Islands;
• T. r. philippensis Bonnaterre, 1790 – northern Philippines;
• T. r. cotabato Rand, 1948 – found on Mindanao (Philippines).
The following three subspecies are sometimes split as the tricolored grebe (Tachybaptus tricolor):
• T. r. tricolor Gray, GR, 1861 – from Sulawesi to New Guinea and the Lesser Sundas;
• T. r. vulcanorum Rensch, 1929 –from Java to Timor;
• T. r. collaris Mayr, 1945 –from northeastern New Guinea to Bougainville.
Biology: Its diet consists predominantly of adult and larval insects, especially mayflies, stoneflies, water bugs, beetles, flies, caddisflies and dragon flies, as well as molluscs (e.g. freshwater snails), crustaceans, adult and juvenile amphibians (e.g. small frogs and newts) and occasionally small fish (up to 11 cm) during the winter.
This species is sedentary, locally dispersive or fully migratory depending on the winter temperatures of its breeding grounds. The species breeds in solitary pairs. After breeding the species undergoes a flightless wing-moulting period during which it may assemble in loose groups (up to 700 individuals) in rich feeding areas. During the winter the species is largely solitary or occurs in small groups of 5-30 individuals.
The nest is a floating platform of aquatic plant matter anchored to emergent vegetation, submerged branches or bushes close to the edge of shallow wetlands.
Habitat: The species inhabits a wide range of small and shallow wetlands usually less than 1 m deep with rich vegetation (floating, submerged and emergent) and high densities of aquatic invertebrates, generally avoiding waters with large predatory fish. Suitable habitats include small lakes, ponds, the sheltered bays and vegetated shores of larger freshwater, alkaline or saline lakes and reservoirs, slow-flowing rivers, canals, flood-plain oxbows, coastal brackish lagoons, seasonally inundated areas, swamps, gravel pits, sewage lagoons and rice-fields. 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.
Distribution: This bird breeds across Europe, much of Asia down to New Guinea, and most of Africa.
BirdLife International, 2016. Species factsheet: Tachybaptus ruficollis.
Wikipedia, Little grebe