The Little Grebe is the smallest European representative of the Grebe family. Body length about 23-29 cm and wingspan – 40-45 cm Weight: 100 -200 g. Life expectancy: 13 years. There is seasonal and age-related dimorphism.

The Little Grebe is a small water bird with a pointed bill. The adult is unmistakable in summer, predominantly dark above with its rich, rufous colour neck, cheeks and flanks, and bright yellow gape. The rufous is replaced by a dirty brownish grey in non-breeding and juvenile birds.

Juvenile birds have a yellow bill with a small black tip, and black and white streaks on the cheeks and sides of the neck as seen below. This yellow bill darkens as the juveniles age, eventually turning black in adulthood.

In winter, its size, buff plumage, with a darker back and cap, and “powder puff” rear end enable easy identification of this species.

The Little Grebe’s breeding call, given singly or in duet, is a trilled repeated weet-weet-weet or wee-wee-wee which sounds like a horse whinnying.

He swims and dives well, but he is not a good flyer. In case of danger, it is immersed in the water and rises far away.


Distribution and Habitat

Palearctic species whose nesting range covers Europe, Northwest Africa and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It does not migrate over long distances, winters in Western and Southern Europe. During the cold season, the Little Grebe grows small groups that mix with other wintering birds.

It inhabits various freshwater marshes, overgrown with water vegetation, fish farms, lakes and micro-dams with open water surface and vegetation.

In Bulgaria it is nesting-passing, passing and wintering. Can be seen in much of the country without the mountains. Most of the population, however, is concentrated in the Thracian Plain, the Danube Coast and the Black Sea. In winter it is found in rivers and non-frozen freshwater ponds in the lower parts of the country.



Feeds include small fish, amphibians, insects and water invertebrates. Its diet contains much less fish than other fish-eating grebes.



It builds nests in the shallow parts of the ponds, in fringed with reeds. As with all grebes, the nest is made of reed and fine branches and is a more or less a floating small raft.

From April to July (in Bulgaria during the second and third ten days of May and the first of June) lays the eggs (on average 5-6). Incubation is provided by both parents for a period of 20 to 27 days. The youngsters accompany their parents during their daily walks and seek shelter on their backs. However, they are not self-sufficient and cannot fly before the age of one and a half months. Their mortality reaches 86% and is often related to the number of the water rat.


Conservation Status

Vulnerable. A protected species of the Biodiversity Act.





Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)