Least Grebe

Tachybaptus dominicus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published October 28, 2011
  • Robert W. Storer

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Figure 1. Year-round range of the Least Grebe in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Also breeds in South America.

Breeding adult Least Grebe, Fort Bend Co., TX, 26 July.

Least Grebe is a tiny, dark grebe of tropical freshwater ponds. Note the small size, slim bill, bright yellow eye, and dark overall plumage. Breeding adult Least Grebe is told by its solid blackish throat and bill. This plumage can be seen year-round, as this species can breed any time conditions are favorable. Visit this photographer's photo gallery here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40848368@N05/

The Least Grebe, the smallest New World grebe, is widely distributed in suitable bodies of fresh and brackish water in tropical and subtropical zones from southern Texas to northern Argentina. The low wing loading of these birds, their generalized feeding habits, and their high reproductive rate allow them to use temporary bodies of fresh water as well as large permanent ones.

Their behavior has been the least studied of any North American grebe. In particular, their courtship and pair-formation displays, known only from anecdotal accounts, need further study and comparison with their closest relatives, the Old World dabchicks or little grebes (Tachybaptus spp.) and the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). Major sources of original information are Gross (Gross 1949b), Palmer (Palmer 1962a), and Storer (Storer et al. 1976). The three supspecies in the AOU Check-list area are bangsi of southern Baja California, brachypterus widespread in the rest of Mexico and in Central America, and dominicus in the West Indies. Although non-migratory, Least Grebes may move long distances: stragglers of the first two races have been found in southern California and Louisiana, respectively. Sight records from southern Florida may be of the West Indian form. Because Least Grebes are small and inconspicuous, they are easily overlooked, but careful searches will almost certainly produce new records of stragglers.

Recommended Citation

Storer, R. W. (2011). Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.24