Australasian Grebe Click to enlarge image
Australasian Grebe Image: Daniela Parra
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Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    novaehollandiae
    Genus
    Tachybaptus
    Family
    Podicipedidae
    Order
    Podicipediformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    25 cm - 27 cm

Grebes eat their own feathers and feed them to their young to prevent injury when swallowing fish bones.

Identification

The Australasian Grebe is a small waterbird with two distinct plumage phases. The non-breeding plumage of both the male and female is dark grey-brown above and mostly silver-grey below, with a white oval patch of bare skin at the base of the bill. During the breeding season, both sexes have a glossy-black head and a rich chestnut facial stripe which extends from just behind the eye through to the base of the neck. At this time, the eye becomes darker and the patch of skin at the base of the bill becomes pale yellow and more noticeable. When approached, Australasian Grebes usually dive under water.

Habitat

The Australasian Grebe is found in freshwater ponds or small waterways.

Distribution

The Australasian Grebe is found throughout Australia and throughout the Pacific region. Also self-introduced to New Zealand.



Feeding and diet

Food consists mainly of small fish and water insects. Prey is normally caught during deep underwater dives, but some is taken on the surface. Like other grebes, the Australasian Grebe is often seen eating its own feathers and feeding them to its young. This behaviour is thought to help prevent injury from any sharp fish bones that are swallowed.

Breeding behaviours

The Australasian Grebe may raise up to three successive broods in a season. The pale blue eggs are laid in a nest which is a floating mound of vegetation, normally anchored to a submerged branch or reed. The striped downy chicks are able to swim from birth and are cared for by both parents. When parents start breeding again, however, the young of the previous brood are driven away.

  • Breeding Season: September to January in the south; January to April in the north
  • Clutch Size: 4 or 5

References

  • Pringle, J.D. 1985. The Waterbirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson/National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol 1. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.