Australasian Grebe

Did you know?

Grebes eat their own feathers and feed them to their young to prevent injury when swallowing fish bones.

Facts and Figures
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Minimum Size: 
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Breeding season: 
September to January in the south; January to April in the north
Clutch Size: 
4 or 5
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Australasian Grebe is a small waterbird with two distinct plumage phases. The non-breeding plumage of both the male and female is dark grey-brown above and mostly silver-grey below, with a white oval patch of bare skin at the base of the bill. During the breeding season, both sexes have a glossy-black head and a rich chestnut facial stripe which extends from just behind the eye through to the base of the neck. At this time, the eye becomes darker and the patch of skin at the base of the bill becomes pale yellow and more noticeable. When approached, Australasian Grebes usually dive under water.

Similar species: 

The slightly larger (27cm to 30 cm) Hoary-headed Grebe, Policephalus poliocephalus, is quite different in breeding plumage. The throat is black and the head becomes dark grey with numerous overlying white plumes. Outside the breeding season, it can be confused with the non-breeding Australasian Grebe, 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 Australasian Grebe is found throughout Australia and throughout the Pacific region. Also self-introduced to New Zealand.


The Australasian Grebe is found in freshwater ponds or small waterways

What does it do?

Food consists mainly of small fish and water insects. Prey is normally caught during deep underwater dives, but some is taken on the surface. Like other grebes, the Australasian Grebe is often seen eating its own feathers and feeding them to its young. This behaviour is thought to help prevent injury from any sharp fish bones that are swallowed.


The Australasian Grebe may raise up to three successive broods in a season. The pale blue eggs are laid in a nest which is a floating mound of vegetation, normally anchored to a submerged branch or reed. The striped downy chicks are able to swim from birth and are cared for by both parents. When parents start breeding again, however, the young of the previous brood are driven away.

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