Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grebes (Phylum Chordata: Order Podicipediformes) of Singapore

Grebes (phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, superclass Tetrapoda, class Aves, order Podicipediformes) are water birds with roundish bodies, small tails and relatively long necks. They are often confused with ducks, but unlike the latter they have pointed bills (instead of broad bills) and toes with leaf-like lobes (instead of webbed feet).

The legs are set towards the back end of the body, allowing them to give powerful kicks with minimum drag, hence making them good swimmers and divers. Most species do not walk well on land since it is hard to balance with the legs set nearer to the tail.

Singapore only has one species, as shown below.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
The Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) is one of the smallest grebes in the world, growing to just about 25cm long. The above photo features one in its breeding plumage, with the reddish brown neck and yellow spot near the bill. Non-breeding ones will duller, with a light brown neck and breast. This resident species dives to hunt for fish or when it is disturbed.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
The Little Grebe usually lives in quiet water bodies, such as disused ponds or less accessible areas of reservoirs. The nest is usually constructed with water plants on top of submerged vegetation.

  • Robson, C. 2010. New Holland field guide to the birds of South-East Asia. London: New Holland Publishers. 304 pp.
  • Grebes. Nature's Voice. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Retrieved Mar 28, 2013,
  • Singapore Birds. Retrieved Mar 28, 2013,
  • Strange, M. 2000. Photographic guide to the birds of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Periplus. 398 pp.


Hungry Ang Mo said...

How often is it seen in Singapore?

Ron Yeo said...

Quite often seen, as this is a resident bird. But not many of them live in Singapore.