Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Little grebe

Thai: นกเป็ดผีเล็ก, nok ped phee lek

Binomial name: Tachybaptus ruficollis, Peter Simon Pallas, 1764

The little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), also known as dabchick, is a member of the grebe family of water birds. At 23 to 29 cm in length it is the smallest European member of its family. It is commonly found in open bodies of water across most of its range.

Description

The little grebe is a small water bird with a pointed bill. 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. The little grebe's breeding call, given singly or in duet, is a trilled repeated weet-weet-weet or wee-wee-wee which sounds like a horse whinnying.

Taxonomy

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): found in southeastern Iraq and southwestern Iran
  • T. r. capensis – (Salvadori, 1884): found in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Indian subcontinent, extending east to Burma
  • T. r. poggei – (Reichenow, 1902): found from southeastern to northeastern Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan, and south Kuril Islands
  • T. r. philippensis – (Bonnaterre, 1790): found in the northern Philippines
  • T. r. cotabato – (Rand, 1948): found on Mindanao

The following three subspecies are sometimes split as the tricolored grebe (Tachybaptus tricolor):

  • T. r. tricolor – (Gray, GR, 1861): found from Sulawesi to New Guinea and the Lesser Sundas
  • T. r. vulcanorum – (Rensch, 1929): found from Java to Timor
  • T. r. collaris – (Mayr, 1945): found from northeastern New Guinea to Bougainville

Distribution

This bird breeds in small colonies in heavily vegetated areas of freshwater lakes across Europe, much of Asia down to New Guinea, and most of Africa. Most birds move to more open or coastal waters in winter, but it is only migratory in those parts of its range where the waters freeze. Outside of breeding season, it moves into more open water, occasionally even appearing on the coast in small bays.

Behaviour

The little grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver and pursues its fish and aquatic invertebrate prey underwater. It uses the vegetation skilfully as a hiding place.

Like all grebes, it nests at the water's edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually four to seven eggs are laid. When the adult bird leaves the nest it usually takes care to cover the eggs with weeds. This makes it less likely to be detected by predators. The young leave the nest and can swim soon after hatching, and chicks are often carried on the backs of the swimming adults. In India, the species breeds during the rainy season.

It does not normally interbreed with the larger grebes in the Old World, but a bird in Cornwall mated with a vagrant North American pied-billed grebe, producing hybrid young.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Podicipediformes
Family
Podicipedidae
Genus
Tachybaptus
Species
Tachybaptus ruficollis

Common names

  • English: Little grebe
  • French: Grèbe castagneux
  • Thai: นกเป็ดผีเล็ก, nok ped phee lek

Subspecies

  • Tachybaptus ruficollis capensis, Tommaso Salvadori, 1884

    Range: Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Indian subcontinent, extending east to Burma

  • Tachybaptus ruficollis cotabato, Rand, 1948

    Range: Mindanao

  • Tachybaptus ruficollis iraquensis, Claud Buchanan Ticehurst, 1923

    Range: Found in southeastern Iraq and southwestern Iran

  • Tachybaptus ruficollis philippensis, Bonnaterre, 1790

    Range: Northern Philippines

  • Tachybaptus ruficollis poggei, Anton Reichenow, 1902

    Range: From southeastern to northeastern Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan and south Kuril Islands

  • Tachybaptus ruficollis ruficollis, Peter Simon Pallas, 1764

    Range: Found from Europe and western Russia south to North Africa

Synonyms

  • Podiceps ruficollis

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Little grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Ban Dung District, Udon Thani
  • Ban Laem District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Lueam District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Ban Phai District, Khon Kaen
  • Ban Phraek District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Ban Sang District, Prachinburi
  • Bang Ban District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Len District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Bang Pa In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pahan District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pakong District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Phra Non-hunting Area
  • Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  • Bangkok Province
  • Borabue District, Maha Sarakham
  • Bueng Boraped Non-hunting Area
  • Bueng Boraphet Non-hunting Area
  • Bueng Khong Long Non-hunting Area
  • Buntharik District, Ubon Ratchathani
  • Chaiyo District, Ang Thong
  • Chatturat District, Chaiyaphum
  • Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Doi Lo District, Chiang Mai
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
  • Fang District, Chiang Mai
  • Hang Chat District, Lampang
  • Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
  • Hat Yai District, Songkhla
  • Huai Chorakhe Mak Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Huai Talat Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Kabin Buri District, Prachinburi
  • Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kamphaeng Saen District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Kanthararom District, Sisaket
  • Kantharawichai District, Maha Sarakham
  • Khao Kradong Forest Park
  • Khao Luang National Park
  • Khao Pra Wihan National Park
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Khlong Luang District, Pathum Thani
  • Khura Buri District, Phang Nga
  • Ko Phra Thong
  • Kui Buri National Park
  • Kumphawapi District, Udon Thani
  • Kut Thing Non-hunting Area
  • La-ngu District, Satun
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Mae Ai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai
  • Mae Mo District, Lampang
  • Mae Poen District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai
  • Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Tha, Lampang District, Lampang
  • Mu Ko Chumphon National Park
  • Mueang Buriram District, Buriram
  • Mueang Chachoengsao District, Chachoengsao
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Kalasin District, Kalasin
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Lampang District, Lampang
  • Mueang Maha Sarakham District, Maha Sarakham
  • Mueang Nakhon Pathom District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Mueang Nakhon Si Thammarat District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Mueang Nong Khai District, Nong Khai
  • Mueang Nonthaburi District, Nonthaburi
  • Mueang Pattani District, Pattani
  • Mueang Phayao District, Phayao
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Phitsanulok District, Phitsanulok
  • Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
  • Mueang Prachuap Khiri Khan District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Mueang Ratchaburi District, Ratchaburi
  • Mueang Samut Prakan District, Samut Prakan
  • Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon
  • Mueang Samut Songkhram District, Samut Songkhram
  • Mueang Sukhothai District, Sukhothai
  • Mueang Suphanburi District, Suphan Buri
  • Mueang Tak District, Tak
  • Mueang Trat District, Trat
  • Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani
  • Mueang Uttaradit District, Uttaradit
  • Namtok Sam Lan National Park
  • Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting Area
  • Nong Han Lake
  • Nong Prue District, Kanchanaburi
  • Nong Song Hong District, Khon Kaen
  • Nong Yai Area Development Project Under Royal Init
  • Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Pak Khat District, Bueng Kan
  • Pak Kret District, Nonthaburi
  • Pak Phli District, Nakhon Nayok
  • Pak Thale
  • Pak Tho District, Ratchaburi
  • Pak Thong Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Phanat Nikhom District, Chonburi
  • Phatthana Nikhom District, Lopburi
  • Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Phunphin District, Surat Thani
  • Phutthamonthon District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Pran Buri District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Rattanaburi District, Surin
  • Rattanawapi District, Nong Khai
  • Sai Noi District, Nonthaburi
  • Sam Ngao District, Tak
  • Samut Prakan Province
  • San Sai District, Chiang Mai
  • Sanam Bin Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Sathing Phra District, Songkhla
  • Sirinat National Park
  • Song Phi Nong District, Suphan Buri
  • Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
  • Tha Takiap District, Chachoengsao
  • Tha Wung District, Lopburi
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thalang District, Phuket
  • Thale Noi Non-hunting Area
  • Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani
  • Wang Chan District, Rayong
  • Wang Nam Yen District, Sa Kaeo
  • Wang Noi District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Wat Phai Lom & Wat Ampu Wararam Non-hunting Area
  • Wiang Chai District, Chiang Rai
  • Yang Talat District, Kalasin

Range map of Tachybaptus ruficollis in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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