Grebe birds 
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from the family of Podicipedidae

"Dabchick" is a local term in UK given to the Grebe in general which describe their action as a "Dive Chick". The Little Grebe fits this term aptly. Little Grebes are small Waterbirds when in their breeding plumage display that rich rufous colored neck, cheek and side of head. But these brilliant color would turn duller when the season ends.

Little Grebe would be seen swimming alone in open ponds but most times they are in pair. Within certain conducive habitats, such as those in Pulau Burung in Penang, there could be a small colony of over 10 birds.

Most of the time I met up with the Little Grebe, they seemed to favor open ponds with few floating weeds but they do stay among the edges of the pond to do their foraging and using the weeds as shelters. I guess the open area provide an uninterrupted view of intruders and also where they could display their skill of diving profienctly.

Nest were made with pieces of floating debris. Piled up to garner strength and eventually became a firm platform. These nests were kept away from the areas dense with weeds. Then there were also isolated strands of grasses or water weeds that had broken the water surfaces but still having its roots to the pond floor. The floating platform interweaved with these grasses as anchorage that will resist the influence of winds and avoiding drift.

Another habit of the Little grebe, in the exposed nest, they would never allow their eggs to be sighted, some action like  concealing them weeds or by waiting for its partner to take over the role of seating over the eggs before the bird had to leave the nest momentarily.

After hatching, the chicks could swim almost immediately but they would undoubtedly prefer to stay with the parent. It's not surprising to see the little chicks riding on their mother's back when she was swimming.

Some how the short puffed tail creates an impression that the Little Grebe has its legs positioned more back and that makes the imbalanced body awkward when walking on hard surfaces. Perhaps the legs were positioned such to gain maximum in effects in diving.

A main characteristic of the Little Grebe is its ability to dive. This quality is exploited by the birds in several fashions. 1] The bird could slip below the water surface gently without leaving traces of tell tale sign that there was a  disturbance on the water surface and of its last whereabouts. 2] A contrary move, the bird to divert attention would purposely make a strong jump and as a last act, its feet would break the water surfaces creating a shower.  3] Lastly, the Little Grebe could get the whole body submerged leaving only the tiny head above the water line. The tiny blob within the large expanse of water is hardly noticeable.

The dive that the Little Grebe makes could last up to a minute with the bird surfacing some safe distance away or among the weeds. Both sexes have identical colors and looks with the female having a duller shade.

 

Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- At 28 cm long the bird is duck-like with a puff up rear end. Rufous neck all the way to the face and then dark brown crown, behind the neck and to the upper part.

 Distribution :-  Resident in Africa, Middle east, Indian sub-continent and all the way east to Japan then down to Philippines, Bali, and Java.
 Habitats & preferences:- Large pools, ponds and marshy water ways.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- In remote places with ponds and small pools of water. Main criteria is remote and the small pools with links to waterways for escape as the bird do not walk well. It flies well but short distances..

 

Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos

 

Little Grebe  # 1

Little Grebe    # 2

Little Grebe  # 3

Little Grebe   # 4

Little Grebe   # 5

Little Grebe   # 6

Little Grebe   # 7

Little Grebe  # 8

Little Grebe    # 9

Little Grebe    # 10

Little Grebe   # 11

Little Grebe   # 12

 

Some of the pictures illustrate the location and conditions of the nest well. Well, I read that their breeding season in climatic zones are in summer, here I have not noticed any particular period in the tropical climate.

They display little fear upon sighting human presence but would not allow close proximity. Neither were they on a sharp look out for intruder. It is easy to hide and wait for them to swim close. Alternatively spot their whereabouts and slowly move closer using covers and without alerting them.