Bird Facts least Grebe

The Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus) is the smallest species of American grebe. It is also known as the Least Dabchick, American Dabchick, Mexican Grebe, or Short-billed Grebe. All grebes are freshwater diving birds, and Least Grebes are considered to be tropical birds. These grebes are not only the smallest in size, but they also have the smallest habitat range of other related species, living in temporary and permanent wetlands from south Texas to Argentina and also the Caribbean. They prefer ponds, lakes, ditches, and slow flowing rivers with thick vegetation. They have a soot-colored head and body with a thin, dark beak and yellow to golden eyes. The young of the species have pale bills and white markings on their heads and throats that darken with age. Their eyes also begin as brown and change color as they mature. During winter months their throats pale in color.

Least Grebes are 22 to 27 centimeters (8.7 to 10.6 inches) in length and weigh between  81 and 182 grams (2.9 to 6.4 ounces) – roughly the size of a robin. They are easily recognized by their size if not by their brightly colored eyes. Some eared grebes and some horned grebes have yellow eyes during autumn months, but the Least Grebe is substantially smaller than all other species. They look a great deal like the Pied-billed Grebe at a glance, but again they are much smaller and with yellow eyes. Additionally, Pied-billed Grebes have white bills with a black ring, while Least Grebes have a solid bill. They are sedentary as opposed to migratory, unlike other species of grebe and they seldom fly at all. These birds are excellent swimmers and their main diet consists of insects and algae. They even build floating nests in the water out of plants, anchoring them to reeds. Females lay clutches of three to six bluish-white eggs that are often stained brown by the nesting materials. After hatching, the young grebes are carried by one of their parent birds on their back for three or four days.

Seldom leaving their nesting areas, Least Grebes have been known instead to hide underwater with only their bill above the surface like a snorkel until the threat has passed. Beneath their black and gray feathers they have black skin that is believed to help them absorb sunlight. They have a unique habit of sunbathing with their back toward the sun, closing their wings and tipping them upward to expose the skin on their backs. Although they are not threatened or endangered their very small size and inconspicuous nature makes them the least understood of the grebe species. They can also be a challenge to spot for bird enthusiasts.