Reddish Vale Country Park
The Little Grebes are also known as Dabchicks, although Shakespeare preferred 'dive-dapper'. They are the smallest European members of the grebe family of water birds and is commonly found in open bodies of water across most of its range.
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 once 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.
The Little Grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver and pursues its fish and aquatic invertebrate prey underwater. It uses the vegetation skilfully as a hiding place.
Like all grebes, it nests at the water's edge, since its legs are set very far back and it cannot walk well. Usually four to seven eggs are laid. When the adult bird leaves the nest it usually takes care to cover the eggs with weeds. The young leave the nest and can swim soon after hatching, and chicks are often carried on the backs of the swimming adults.
It does not normally interbreed with the larger grebes but a bird in Cornwall mated with a vagrant North American Pied-billed Grebe, producing hybrid young.
“Upon this promise did he raise his chin
Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave
Who, being look’d on, ducks as quickly in.”
From Venus and Adonis, by William Shakespeare
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