Saturday, 24 September 2016

Bird of the week - Little grebe

Little grebes are endearing birds that seem to be completely waterproof.  I see them on most of the ponds and lakes I visit.

Little grebes dive to catch fish and molluscs such as this snail.

This year's youngsters are now full size but still have juvenile plumage.

The little grebe has about the same UK population size as the kingfisher (5000 pairs) but seems to me to be much more easily seen.  Numbers have been fairly stable in recent years.

It is found in most parts of the British Isles.

The little grebe is also known as the dabchick although Thomas Bewick gave it four other names.  William Shakespeare called it a dive-dapper.  Bewick drew its feet (from a shot specimen) but I don't think I have ever seen one out of the water.

Bewick also wrote that it was found in America, although I can't find any evidence that it is now and it wasn't painted by John James Audubon.

This is its distribution according to Wikipedia.

The little grebe is Tachybaptus ruficollis, meaning red-necked fast-sinker.  It has a variety of calls which you can hear here.  Listen to Kate Humble's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on little grebes here.

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