This flightless grebe is listed as Endangered because it has suffered from very rapid population reductions. The population is small enough that, if
declines continue, this species may soon need uplisting to Critically Endangered.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCBaseline.html#.
Rollandia micropterum Stotz et al. (1996), Rollandia micropterum Collar and Andrew (1988)
Distribution and populationRollandia microptera
28-45 cm. A distinctive flightless grebe. Upperparts blackish-brown. Chin, throat and foreneck white. Nape and lower foreneck reddish-brown. Bill yellow. Non-breeding adult is pale, duller and lacks crest. Juveniles are greyer, with striped heads and the white on the foreneck extending onto the breast.
is endemic to open, freshwater lakes on the altiplano of Peru
. It occurs from lakes Arapa and Umayo in south-eastern Peru, through Lake Titicaca into adjacent Bolivia, and along the Desaguadero River to Lakes Uru-uru and Poopó (O'Donnell and Fjeldså 1997). Temporary populations occur on smaller adjacent lakes in years when Lake Titicaca floods (O'Donnell and Fjeldså 1997). Surveys in the 1970s and 1980s led to population estimates of between 2,000-10,000 individuals, with at least 1,147 on Lake Umayo alone in 1986 (Engblom et al
. 2001). Surveys in 2001 found just four individuals on Lake Umayo, and 156 adults on Lake Arapa, whereas 215 adults and 45 young were recorded from 16 lakes in the Peruvian range (Engblom et al
. 2001). Counts during 1997 in Bolivia found a total of 100 individuals (Engblom et al
. 2001). Further declines were indicated during a brief follow-up survey in 2003 (G. Engblom in litt
. 2003), but surveys of Lake Titicaca in 2003 found a total of 2,583 individuals, which was thought likely to be an underestimate of the total population on the lake. In 2007 preliminary census data found 1,254 individuals in the wet season (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). A census on a small section of the Río Laka Jahuira (at Paso Julian) in 2004 found 138 mature individuals, and further surveys are needed along the entire eastern section of the river to confirm the size of this subpopulation (Konter 2006). The total global population is estimated at 1,600 mature individuals (Martinez et al.
2006). Population justification
Martinez et al.
(2006) estimated around 1,600 mature individuals by summing the adults counted in their study of Lake
Titicaca in 2003 and those adults counted elsewhere in the Titicaca watershed by Engblom et al.
and Rocha et al
. 2,583 individuals of all ages were counted on Lake Titicaca
itself which combined with smaller numbers elsewhere in the watershed represents a higher population than previously estimated.Trend justification
The species declined by 15% between
2003 and 2005, consistent with a decline of over 50% in ten years (Asociación Armonia, 2007). The greatest current threat to the species, bycatch in fishermen's gill-nets, is
It is a social species, but usually solitary when feeding (O'Donnell and Fjeldså 1997). It breeds in wide reed-marshes composed primarily of tule
-rushes (Schoenoplectus tatora
) in places with easy access to open water, or in open view in floating water weeds (O'Donnell and Fjeldså 1997). Fish of the genus Orestias
comprise up to 94% of prey as measured by biomass (Martinez et al.
2006). The species is an opportunistic breeder and reproduction occurs throughout the year (Martinez et al.
Since at least the early 1990s, there has been unregulated use of 80-100 m long monofilament gill-nets in lakes throughout its range. Confirmation that birds are drowned in these gill-nets comes from local fishermen and direct observations - one study found 100% of Aymara fishermen questioned had found grebes drowned as bycatch in their nets (Martinez et al.
2006), 45% of the fishermen finding such birds on a weekly basis. A rapid evaluation with two fishermen in 2005 found one dead grebe per net/fisherman/day (B. Hennessey in litt.
2005) and studies in 2006-2007 found 2.7 individuals per fisherman/month. Local, natural fluctuations in water levels seriously impact breeding success (Engblom et al
. 2001). Lakes Poopó and Uru Uru are threatened by chemical contamination from the heavy metal mining industry (Konter 2006). Lake ecosystems in the area are being affected negatively by the introduction of exotic fish such as Basilicthys bonariensis
and Onchorhynchus mykiss
(J. Fjeldså in litt.
2003, Martinez et al.
2006). Uro communities have recently started hunting birds, including Titicaca Grebes, on a commercial basis to sell at market (Martinez et al.
2006), and eggs may be harvested for food. Harvesting of tule-
beds has taken place for centuries but human population growth and market demand for cattle may be changing harvesting patterns and posing a threat to the grebes' breeding habitat (Martinez et al.
2006). In particular burning of tule
-rushes during the grebes' peak breeding period may be affecting reproduction (B. Hennessey in litt.
2005). Tourism on Lake Titicaca has increased rapidly over the past decade, and disturbance by boats may be a threat to reproductive success (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). Alteration of the rio Desaguadero watercourse for extensive farming may affect the aquatic ecosystems of Lakes Poopó and Uru Uru in the future (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). Organic and inorganic waste from cities such as Alto is dumped in large quantities in some parts of Lake Titicaca (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). Conservation Actions Underway
Although some areas are protected, there is currently no action being taken to protect the species or to mitigate the threats it faces. Conservation Actions Proposed
Promote awareness of the plight of the species amongst local communities and encourage involvement in its conservation. Formulate a Species Action Plan. Investigate alternatives to gill-netting along reedbed edges and scaring methods to reduce bycatch. Implement a monitoring programme using a standardised survey technique to assess declines. Survey Río Laka Jahuira to confirm whether species present along the whole section of the river and whether there is interchange with birds on Lake Poopó (Konter 2006). Identify areas with large numbers of breeding territories, good breeding habitat and minimal fishing nets and investigate possibility of designating these as net-free harvest refugia for Orestias
spp (Martinez et al.
2006). Study potential effects of organic and inorganic waste on the species and lake ecosystem (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). Develop plans to mitigate current and future diversions of water bodies such as Lakes Uru Uru and Poopó (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). Assess genetic variability (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
2007). Study effects of increased tourism and if necessary develop a management plan to reduce disturbance from tourist boats (H. Aranibar-Rojas in litt.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
AsociaciÃ³n Armonia. 2007. Titicaca Flightless Grebe conservation. Cotinga: 7.
Engblom, G.; Geale, D.; Choquehuanca, D.; Ferro, G. 2001. Population survey of Rollandia microptera and other Grebes in the Lake Titicaca area.
Konter, A. 2006. The Titicaca Flightless Grebe Rollandia microptera population of Rio Laka Jahuira, Bolivia. Cotinga 26: 36-38.
Martinez, A.E.; Aranibar, D.F.; Gutierrez, E. R. 2006. An assessment of the abundance and distribution of the Titicaca Flightless Grebe Rollandia microptera on Lake Titicaca and evaluation of its conservation status. Bird Conservation International 16(3): 237-251.
O'Donnell, C.; Fjeldsa, J. 1997. Grebes: a global action plan for their conservation.
Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Wege, D.
Aranibar-Rojas, H., Engblom, G., Fjeldså, J., Hennessey, A.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Rollandia microptera. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/10/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/10/2016.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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