Little Grebe: Piggybacking chicks

posted in: Feeding chicks | 2


Photographers like to show images of Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) carrying their chicks on their back. Indeed these images attract the most attention, as seen in the one above by Dr Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong.

Most grebe species carry their chicks in a pocket formed between the wing and the dorsal feathers. This may be seen when the birds are on the nest, with the adult feeding the chicks when they are snug inside. When the adult is swimming, the chicks may be transported along inside the pocket. Occasionally when the adult dives, the chicks may still be inside the pocket.


The Little Grebe feeds on insects, molluscs, crustaceans, amphibians and some fish. The image above shows a chick swallowing a fish. Grebes have been known to eat their own feathers that form a characteristic feather-ball that lines the gizzard. This ball is regularly regurgitated in the form of a pellet containing the non-digested parts of the food like fish bones and insect exoskeleton.

However, feather eating and pellet casting have yet to be documented in the Little Grebes seen locally.


2 Responses

  1. Tan Tze Siong

    Wow, great documentary photography.
    Are these beaytiful grebes still surviving in singapore today?


  2. Sad to say, but barely surviving in Singapore …

    K C


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