Fine Art

Tachybaptus ruficollis

Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Mirandornithes
Ordo: Podicipediformes

Familia: Podicipedidae
Genus: Tachybaptus
Species: Tachybaptus ruficollis
Subspecies: T. r. albescens – T. r. capensis – T. r. cotabato – T. r. iraquensis – T. r. philippensis – T. r. poggei – T. r. ruficollis

Tachybaptus ruficollis (Pallas, 1764)

Colymbus ruficollis (protonym)
Podiceps ruficollis

Tachybaptus ruficollis

Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis (*)


Catalogue raisonne, D'une Collection supérieurement belle D'Oiseaux, Tant exotiques qu'Européens, ... p.6 no.281

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Kleindobbertjie
aragonés: Capucete chicot
العربية: غطاس صغير
asturianu: Parrulu
azərbaycanca: Kiçik iyrəncə
беларуская: Мала паганка
български: Малък гмурец
বাংলা: ডুবুরি
brezhoneg: Plomerig rous
català: Cabusset
čeština: Potápka malá
Cymraeg: Gwyach Fach
dansk: Lille lappedykker
Deutsch: Zwergtaucher
Ελληνικά: Νανοβουτηχτάρι
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Fisulét
English: Little Grebe
Esperanto: Malgranda grebo
español: Zampullín común
eesti: Väikepütt
euskara: Txilinporta txiki
فارسی: کشیم کوچک
suomi: Pikku-uikku
føroyskt: Smágjør
Nordfriisk: Eersföötj
français: Grèbe castagneux
Frysk: Dûkerke
Gaeilge: Spágaire tonn
Gàidhlig: Spàg-ri-Tòn
galego: Mergullón pequeno
ગુજરાતી: નાની ડુબકી
Gaelg: Greeb beg
עברית: טבלן גמדי
हिन्दी: Mukkulippan
hrvatski: Gnjurac pilinorac
magyar: Kis vöcsök
հայերեն: Փոքր Սուզակ
Bahasa Indonesia: Titihan
íslenska: Dverggoði
italiano: Tuffetto comune
日本語: カイツブリ, 鳰 (にお), 鸊鷉 (へきてい), 鸊鵜 (へきてい)
ქართული: პატარა კოკონა
қазақша: Кішкене сұқсыр
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಗುಳುಮುಳುಕ
한국어: 논병아리
कॉशुर / کٲشُر: Tech
kurdî: Sonebinavika biçûk
kernowek: Gryb lyha
Lëtzebuergesch: Däichelchen
Limburgs: Dodaars
lietuvių: Mažasis kragas
latviešu: Mazais dūkuris
Malagasy: Fanaliandro
македонски: Мал нуркач
മലയാളം: മുങ്ങാങ്കോഴി
монгол: Хурган шунгуур
मराठी: टिबुकली
Bahasa Melayu: Burung Grebe Kecil
Malti: Blonġun Żgħir
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ထန်းစေ့မှုတ်ငှက်
Nedersaksies: Dodaars
Nederlands: Dodaars
norsk nynorsk: Dvergdukkar
norsk: Dvergdykker
polski: Perkozek
پنجابی: نکا گریب
português: Mergulhão-pequeno
rumantsch: Sfunsella nanina
română: Corcodel mic
русский: Малая поганка
Scots: Smaw douker
sardu: Cabussoni
davvisámegiella: Uhcabuokča
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Patuljasti gnjurac - патуљасти гњурац
slovenčina: Potápka malá
slovenščina: Mali ponirek
shqip: Kredharaku i vogël
српски / srpski: Мали гњурац/Mali gnjurac
Sesotho: Thoboloko
svenska: Smådopping
Kiswahili: Kibisi mdogo
தமிழ்: முக்குளிப்பான்
ไทย: นกเป็ดผีเล็ก
Türkçe: Küçük batağan
українська: Пірникоза мала
Tiếng Việt: Chim le hôi
isiXhosa: Unolwilwilwi
Zeêuws: Dodaars
Bân-lâm-gú: Chúi-pī-á
中文: 小鷿鷈

The little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), also known as dabchick, is a member of the grebe family of water birds. The genus name is from Ancient Greek takhus "fast" and bapto "to sink under". The specific ruficollis is from Latin rufus "red" and Modern Latin -collis, "-necked", itself derived from Latin collum "neck".[2]

At 23 to 29 centimetres (9 to 11+1⁄2 inches) 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.


The little grebe was described by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas in 1764 and given the binomial name Colymbus ruficollis.[3][4][5] The tricolored grebe was considered conspecific, with some taxonomic authorities still considering it so.

There are six currently-recognized subspecies, separated principally by size and colouration.[6][7]

T. r. ruficollis – (Pallas, 1764): nominate, found from Europe and western Russia south to North Africa[8]
T. r. iraquensis – (Ticehurst, 1923): found in southeastern Iraq and southwestern Iran[8]
T. r. capensis – (Salvadori, 1884): found in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Indian subcontinent, extending east to Burma[8]
T. r. poggei – (Reichenow, 1902): found from southeastern to northeastern Asia, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan, and south Kuril Islands[8]
T. r. philippensis – (Bonnaterre, 1790): found in the northern Philippines[8]
T. r. cotabato – (Rand, 1948): found on Mindanao[8]


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.

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.[1]

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.[9] The young leave the nest and can swim soon after hatching, and chicks are often carried on the backs of the swimming adults.[10] In India, the species breeds during the rainy season.[11]


BirdLife International (2017) [amended version of 2016 assessment]. "Tachybaptus ruficollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T22696545A111716447. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-1.RLTS.T22696545A111716447.en. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 341, 377. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William (1979). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume (1 Second ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 143.
Sherborn, C. Davies (1905). "The new species of birds in Vroeg's catalogue, 1764". Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 47: 332–341 [339 No. 281]. Includes a transcript of the 1764 text.
Rookmaaker, L.C.; Pieters, F.F.J.M. (2000). "Birds in the sales catalogue of Adriaan Vroeg (1764) described by Pallas and Vosmaer". Contributions to Zoology. 69 (4): 271–277. doi:10.1163/18759866-06904005.
Ogilvie, Malcolm; Rose, Chris (2003). Grebes of the World. Bruce Coleman. ISBN 978-1-872842-03-5.
Gill, F.; Donsker, D. & Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (2021). "Grebes, flamingos". IOC World Bird List (v 11.1). doi:10.14344/IOC.ML.11.1.
Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (6th ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4501-9.
Prokop, Pavel; Trnka, Alfréd (2011). "Why do grebes cover their nests? Laboratory and field tests of two alternative hypotheses" (PDF). Journal of Ethology. 29: 17–22. doi:10.1007/s10164-010-0214-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-14.
Finn, Frank (1905). "Notes on the nesting of the Indian Dabchick". Bird Notes. 4: 10–17.
Dalgliesh, Gordon (1906). "Notes on the Indian Podicipedidae". The Avicultural Magazine. 5 (2): 65–72.

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