Little grebe

Little Grebe

©Margaret Holland

Little grebe

Scientific name: Tachybaptus ruficollis
The little grebe is a fantastic diver, but to help it swim underwater, its feet are placed towards the back of its body, making it rather clumsy on land. It only really comes ashore to breed.

Species information


Length: 25-29cm
Wingspan: 42cm
Weight: 140g
Average lifespan: 10 years

Conservation status

Common. Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021).

When to see

January to December


Grebes are diving waterbirds, feeding on small fish and aquatic invertebrates. The little grebe or 'Dabchick', as it is sometimes known, is our smallest grebe, about half the size of a moorhen. Grebes nest on floating platforms made up of waterweed.

How to identify

The little grebe is a small, brown grebe, with a fluffy, round-looking bottom. It develops a bright chestnut throat and cheeks during the breeding season. It can be a noisy bird, making a distinctive whinnying trill.


Found on canals, ponds, lakes and rivers throughout the country.

Did you know?

When little grebe chicks are young, the parents will sometimes carry them on their backs.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.


Little Grebe by Tom Hibbert