Photo: Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO

Least Grebe

Tachybaptus dominicus

A tiny diver of the American tropics, entering our area mainly in southern Texas. Seems to fly more readily than most grebes, and may colonize temporary ponds or flooded areas shortly after they form. Often seen swimming and diving on small ponds or ditches in pursuit of aquatic insects, its main food. Sometimes the Least Grebe hides in dense marshes, where its presence may be revealed by metallic trilling calls, often given as a duet by members of a mated pair.
Conservation status Numbers vary in limited range in United States. Many may be killed by exceptionally cold winters in Texas.
Family Grebes
Habitat Ponds, marshes. In Texas usually on shallow freshwater ponds and ditches, either fairly open or with heavy marsh vegetation. Often appears on small temporary ponds after rainy periods. In tropics, also on brackish marshes, lakes, slow-moving rivers, mangrove swamps.
A tiny diver of the American tropics, entering our area mainly in southern Texas. Seems to fly more readily than most grebes, and may colonize temporary ponds or flooded areas shortly after they form. Often seen swimming and diving on small ponds or ditches in pursuit of aquatic insects, its main food. Sometimes the Least Grebe hides in dense marshes, where its presence may be revealed by metallic trilling calls, often given as a duet by members of a mated pair.
Photo Gallery
  • breeding adults with fledglings
  • adult, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages in several ways. Dives and swims underwater in pursuit of prey, captures insects on and above surface of water or takes them from waterside vegetation. May catch flying dragonflies by approaching them underwater and then erupting from beneath water's surface to snatch them from the air.


Eggs

4-6, rarely 3-7. Whitish to very pale blue-green, becoming stained in nest. Incubation (by both sexes) about 21 days. Young: Can swim soon after hatching. Small young often ride on parents' backs; fed by both parents. Young may return to nest for sleeping and resting during first 2 weeks after hatching. Age at first flight not known. May raise 2-3 broods per year (possibly more in tropics).


Young

Can swim soon after hatching. Small young often ride on parents' backs; fed by both parents. Young may return to nest for sleeping and resting during first 2 weeks after hatching. Age at first flight not known. May raise 2-3 broods per year (possibly more in tropics).

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on wide variety of insects, including aquatic beetles, waterbugs, dragonfly larvae and adults, and others. Also small crustaceans, spiders, tadpoles, small fish.


Nesting

In Texas, breeds mainly spring and summer, sometimes at other seasons; nests year-round in the tropics. Courtship displays not well known, may include pair rising to upright position and gliding rapidly across surface of water. Nest: Site is in shallow water, usually 1-3' deep. Nest (built by both sexes) is a mass of decaying vegetation, either floating or resting on bottom, anchored to aquatic plants. Same nest often re-used for subsequent broods.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Not truly migratory, but moves around considerably, sometimes appearing quickly on newly-formed ponds. Has strayed north to California, Arizona, and Louisiana. Has colonized many islands in Caribbean, and strays from Caribbean have reached Florida. Movements are probably mostly at night.

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Migration

Not truly migratory, but moves around considerably, sometimes appearing quickly on newly-formed ponds. Has strayed north to California, Arizona, and Louisiana. Has colonized many islands in Caribbean, and strays from Caribbean have reached Florida. Movements are probably mostly at night.

Songs and Calls
Loud peek! and other calls.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Grebes Duck-like Birds

Least Grebe

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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