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Least Grebe

These small water birds are found mainly found in Central and South America.

The Least Grebe is the smallest grebe in North America, and occupies portions of southern Texas, although most of its range lies south of the U.S. The small size of the Least Grebe, and its ability to take off from water more rapidly than other grebes allows it to use even small, temporary bodies of water.

Least Grebes form pairs during the breeding season, family groups in the fall, and may occur in small flocks in the winter. One source of mortality for Least Grebes in Texas is being trapped in ice when ponds freeze over, making them vulnerable to predators.

Least Grebe —  Length: 9 inches,  Wing span: 11 inches


Breeding Male

The Least Grebe is very small with grayish plumage and yellow eyes. Blackish crown and throat.  Length: 9 in.  Wingspan: 11 in.

Least Grebe

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


Sexes similar.


Least Grebe aggressive posture

Least Grebe in an aggressive posture.  Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Least Grebe

The body shape and behavior is clearly grebe-like. Might be confused with the Pied-billed Grebe, which is larger and has a different shape to the bill. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Least Grebe

Pied-billed Grebes (below) can appear as black as the Least Grebe, but the shape of the billis different. Note the thinner look to the bill of the Least Grebes in silhouette above, compared to the shape of the Pied-billed Grebe. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Pied-billed Grebe

Seasonal change in appearance

Least Grebes are somewhat dingier and browner in the winter, and have whitish throats.


Juveniles resemble adults but are browner.


Marshes and ponds.



Least Grebe \

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


Forages by diving and swimming.


Resident in south Texas and Mexico, as well as Central and South America.

Fun Facts

Almost nothing is known about the courtship behavior of Least Grebes.

Pied-billed Grebes are sometimes aggressive towards Least Grebes.


The most common call is a trill of varying speed.


Similar Species

Other grebes are larger and lack bright yellow eyes.


The nest is a pile of decaying vegetation in the water.

Number: 4-6.
Color: White.

Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at 21 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) shortly after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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