Hoary-headed Grebe

Did you know?

The Hoary-headed Grebe may have been allowed to spread into the previously unsuitable arid inland areas of Australia, with the increased availability of water after the construction of artificial dams, reservoirs and sewage farms.

The Hoary-headed Grebe is usually silent, occasionally making rolling gutteral or soft churring sounds.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average weight: 
Breeding season: 
October to January
Clutch Size: 
3 to 6
25 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

The Hoary-headed Grebe is a small stocky grebe. This grebe has a darkish grey and white plumage, an inconspicuous brown iris, a square black 'chin', and breeding adults develop a white streaking over their entire head (hence the name). There is a diagnositic narrow black streak down the nape of the neck. Juveniles have a striped face, white chin and throat, and a mottled brown and white hindneck. This species is also known as the Dabchick, Hoary-headed Dabchick and Tom Pudding.

Similar species: 

Sharing a similar size and build, when in non-breeding plumage, the Hoary-headed Grebe is often confused with the New Zealand Dabchick, Poliocephalus rufopectus, and the Australasian Grebe,Tachybaptus novaehollandiae, but it can be distinguished by its dark crown that extends below the eye. It also has a greater tendency to fly off rather than dive when approached.

Where does it live?

The Hoary-headed Grebe is found in all states and territories of Australia as well as in New Zealand. It is generally absent from the central arid regions of Australia.


The Hoary-headed Grebe is usually found away from the shoreline in large open waters, which may be estuarine, brackish or freshwater.

Seasonal movements: 

Movements of the Hoary-headed Grebe are poorly known, however the species is thought to occur wherever surface water persists after rain.

What does it do?

The Hoary-headed Grebe feeds on aquatic arthropods, mostly caught by deep diving. This species feeds during the day, and when the light is poor, forages mostly at the water surface.


The Hoary-headed Grebe breeds in simple pairs in colonies. It constructs its nest well offshore in the shallows amongst floating waterweeds or scattered, open lignum, sedges, reeds or other saltmarsh vegetation, from waterweeds which are loosely attached to submergents, sedges or fallen branches. Both parents assist in incubation.

Living with us

Within coastal areas, the Hoary-headed Grebe can be vulnerable to oil slicks. The artificial regulation of floodwaters may prevent breeding in some areas.

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