email a friend
printable version
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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.

Taxonomic note

Tachybaptus ruficollis (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was split into T. ruficollis and T. tricolor by Mlikovsky (2010) o

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.610,000-3,500,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Taiwan; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Korea; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Japan and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is sedentary, locally dispersive or fully migratory depending on the winter temperatures of its breeding grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Some dispersive movements in Africa are also related to seasonal rains and the appearance of temporary wetlands (Brown et al. 1982). The species breeds in solitary pairs, the timing of breeding varying geographically and depending on the growth of emergent vegetation and water-levels (del Hoyo et al. 1992). After breeding the species undergoes a flightless wing-moulting period during which it may assemble in loose groups (Fjeldsa 2004) (up to 700 individuals) (Snow and Perrins 1998) in rich feeding areas (Fjeldsa 2004). During the winter the species is largely solitary or occurs in small groups of 5-30 individuals (Brown et al. 1982, Snow and Perrins 1998). Habitat The species inhabits a wide range of small and shallow wetlands (del Hoyo et al. 1992) usually less than 1 m deep (Fjeldsa 2004) with rich vegetation (floating, submerged and emergent) and high densities of aquatic invertebrates, generally avoiding waters with large predatory fish (Konter 2001). Suitable habitats include small lakes, ponds, the sheltered bays and vegetated shores (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of larger freshwater, alkaline or saline lakes (Brown et al. 1982) and reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), slow-flowing rivers (Konter 2001), canals (del Hoyo et al. 1992), flood-plain oxbows, coastal brackish lagoons (Brown et al. 1982), seasonally inundated areas, swamps (Fjeldsa 2004), gravel pits (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004), sewage lagoons (Fjeldsa 2004) and rice-fields (Brown et al. 1982). Outside of breeding season it is common on more open waters and is occasionally observed along the coast in estuaries or sheltered bays protected from strong wave action (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When moulting the species requires rich feeding areas (Fjeldsa 2004). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of adult and larval insects, especially mayflies, stoneflies, water bugs, beetles, flies, caddisflies and dragon flies, as well as molluscs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. freshwater snails) (Fjeldsa 2004), crustaceans, adult and juvenile amphibians (e.g. small frogs and newts) and occasionally small fish (up to 11 cm) (del Hoyo et al. 1992) during the winter (Konter 2001). Breeding site The nest is a floating platform of aquatic plant matter (del Hoyo et al. 1992) anchored to emergent vegetation (Fjeldsa 2004), submerged branches or bushes close to the edge of shallow wetlands (Brown et al. 1982). Management information In France it was found that the presence of aquatic macrophytes was the most important factor in attracting the species to new artificial habitats (such as gravel pits) (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004).

The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of this viurs (Melville and Shortridge 2006). Utilisation The species is hunted for commercial (sold as food) and recreational purposes Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).

Balmaki, B.; Barati, A. 2006. Harvesting status of migratory waterfowl in northern Iran: a case study from Gilan Province. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 868-869. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Fjeldså, J. 2004. The grebes. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Konter, A. 2001. Grebes of our world. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Santoul, F.; Mastrorillo, S. 2004. Gravel pits as new wetlands for the little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis. Vie et Milieu 54(1): 31-36.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

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
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Tachybaptus ruficollis. Downloaded from on 27/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/11/2015.

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

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Podicipedidae (Grebes)
Species name author (Pallas, 1764)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 31,500,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment