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Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus

  • Order: Podicipediformes
  • Family: Podicipedidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors needed...
  • © Richard Johnston

The tiny Least Grebe (24 cm length) is found in a variety of aquatic habitats including ponds, marshes, swamps, and lakes, typically with densely-vegetated margins. Pairs or family groups are usually encountered but outside the breeding season they often form flocks of 20 or more. Least Grebe breeds from south Texas and western Mexico through the Greater Antilles to central Argentina. Where suitable habitat may not be available every year, or in response to especially cold weather, (south Texas and northern Tamaulipas, for example), the bird’s range is subject to short-term expansions and contractions. Such movements may account for extralimital occurrences; i.e., California and Arizona. Food items include vegetation, many kinds of small fishes, crustaceans, and insects that are taken during dives, snatched from the air, or picked off the water’s surface or the stems of aquatic plants. Its small size, lead gray plumage, yellow eye, white wing patches, and slender, dark bill help differentiate it from other small grebes and ducks. In non-breeding plumage, note the adult’s white chin. Least Grebe’s long, churring call is remarkably similar to that of a number of small rails; e.g., Ruddy Crake (Laterallus ruber) with which it may occur.

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© James Goetz

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: