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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis

  • Family: Grebes – Podicipedidae
  • Appearance: A very small grebe, about the size of a duckling, with a short neck, a short, straight beak, and a plump rounded body shape.
  • Size: Length 23–29 cm, wingspan 40–45 cm, weight 150–200 g.
  • Nest: Floating nest built near the shoreline attached to aquatic plants or branches of waterside bushes. Made of decaying plant material, which initially stains the birds’ white eggs brownish.
  • Breeding: 4–6 eggs laid in May, incubated by both parents for 19–20 days. Young able to fly within 44–48 days.
  • Distribution: Very scarce breeder in Finland found around small lakes and ponds with plenty of aquatic vegetation, mainly in the south. A hardy species, also sometimes found in small stretches of open water during the winter. Population in 2015 estimated at 1–20 pairs.
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Leaves Finland in October, returning in April. Winters in Western Europe.
  • Diet: Small fish, insects, crustaceans, shellfish and molluscs. Finds food by diving or dabbling.
  • Calls: A whistling “viht-viht”.
  • Endangerment: Endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Little Grebes are hard to spot as they spend much of the time concealed in vegetation. Adult Little Grebes have black colouring on their heads, napes, breasts and backs. Their cheeks, throat and neck are a dark reddish brown, and their flanks are dark brown. A small yellow patch at the base of their beak stands out prominently. Their beaks are otherwise black with a pale tip. They have very large, dark greenish legs, lobed toes and reddish brown irises.

Juvenile birds are paler than adults, with dark colouring on the cap, nape and back, yellowish brown cheeks, neck sides and flanks, and reddish brown lower necks and chest. Darker and lighter patterned markings remain visible on their heads well into their first winter.

Other species from the same family

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