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Little grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis

These are sometimes mistaken for ducklings as they’re only around 100g in weight and just over 25cm long. That compares with a mallard at as much as ten times the weight and more than 50cm long.

You’ll find little grebes on the coast all year round: they’re not uncommon in lakes, ponds, rivers and estuaries around the Solent but their small size can make them tricky to spot. You might see them at Lepe or at Bunny Meadows in Warsash, at Sturt Pond in Milford on Sea or on the Isle of Wight at Bembridge or Yarmouth.

All about little grebes

These water birds are great underwater swimmers, and can be spotted diving under the water in search of food. If you’ve seen one diving down in the water, you might be surprised to see how far they’ve travelled by the time they bob up again, especially when the currents are strong.

Little grebe’s feet are positioned far back on their body which is great for swimming but makes for clumsy walking when they’re on dry land. As a result, they only tend to leave the water to  breed. They nest on floating platforms made of waterweed and carry their chicks on their backs.

It’s a predominantly brown bird with a fluffy, round-looking bottom. During the breeding season it has a bright chestnut throat and cheeks and pale patch next to it’s bill. It can be noisy quite noisy, with a distinctive whinnying call.

Conservation status

Little grebe are green listed in the UK and while they may not not be listed in the Solent’s Special Protection Areas but they are still important for the coastal ecosystem and form part of the non-breeding waterbird assemblages for which these regions are protected .

Did you know?

Little grebes are sometimes known as ‘dabchicks’, a word which has the unusual trait of including the first three letters of the alphabet in order – ABC.