Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis capensis

The Little Grebe, or Dabchick, is a small (120-190g, 20-29cm long) resident waterbird, commonly seen in pairs or small groups on shallow wetlands, ponds, lakes, pans, dams and other quiet freshwater habitats (rarely in fast flowing rivers). They feed on aquatic prey, including fish, amphibians, crustaceans and insects, mostly caught under water, and in turn are preyed upon by large predatory fish.

In South Africa, Little Grebes breed mostly in the spring and summer months. Solitary pairs build a floating platform of plantmaterial, anchored to some underwater structure, for a nest. Before leaving the nest the parent bird always covers the eggs, of which there may be up to seven in a clutch, with some nest material. After hatching the chicks are often carried on their parents’ backs when swimming. At the end of the breeding season the Little Grebes moult and are then flightless for a short time.

Despite a declining population, estimated at as many as 3.5-million, the IUCN consders the Little Grebe of Least Concern, owing to a wide distribution across Africa, Asia and Europe. Little Grebes occur all over South Africa wherever suitable habitat is to be found.


17 thoughts on “Little Grebe

      1. kim blades, writer

        Hello. Yes we do get them near dams and rivers. No so many as we used to because the rivers are so clogged up with plastic and other litter. I am talking about the small local rivers and dams. My sister has them on her farm dam.


  1. Nature on the Edge

    Hi de Wets am enjoying your site not only as a useful resource for wildlife travel destinations but also a fact file and ID. Did a ‘search’ on storks / interesting to see the marabou come up. Dries do you know how the black stork population is faring here in SA? Guessing their numbers are shrinking? Going to be coming back to learn more about waterfowl, love this little Grebe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you so much for the very kind comments, Liz!

      I can’t seem to find any literature that specifically mentions a current population size for the Black Stork in SA, but it is a very worrisome picture painted when you compare the results of SABAP1 and SABAP2 (SA Bird Atlas Project) to one another – It shows a very distinct reduction in distribution and reporting rates for the species:


      1. Nature on the Edge

        Thanks for sending the link to the Bird Atlas info. Yes, that is worrying – a marked change in the sightings. Will scratch around a bit more, but really appreciate your input.


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