Australasian Grebe

The Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) is also known as the Little Grebe. This small, tail-less water bird is frequently seen at the Urrbrae Wetland, but us seldom seen ashore, since its legs set well back on the body for diving strength rather than for walking. Diving is its safety strategy, often only a head surfaces to survey for danger.

This specie of Grebe breeds here regularly (usually Aug to Dec) making an anchored but floating sodden nest of water weeds, usually with 4-6 eggs. It is often seen carrying new nestlings under its plumage, even when diving. If conditions are right they may raise up to three broods er season.

The Grebe feeds on small fish, tadpoles, frogs, and water insects on the surface and larvae. Grebes eat their own feathers and also feed them to newly hatched young. Some of the feathers form a plug in the outlet from the stomach and prevent sharp indigestible pieces from entering the intestines. Insect eating grebes can cough up undigested parts of their prey so do not accumulate a large feather plug, but in grebes eating a largely fish diet, the feather mass probably holds fish bones until they can be digested.

Grebes have feeble flight but travel widely, usually at night to avoid predation. On cold early mornings, you may see grebes turning its ruffled rump feathers to face the sunshine. (Contributed by Jo G.)