Australasian Grebe Click to enlarge image
Australasian Grebe Image: Daniela Parra
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    25 cm - 27 cm
Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
Australasian Grebe 8.3 Image: D & M Trounson
© Australian Museum

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


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.


The Australasian Grebe is found in freshwater ponds or small waterways.


The Australasian Grebe is found throughout Australia and throughout the Pacific region. Also self-introduced to New Zealand.

Feeding and diet

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.

Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
Australian Little Grebe, adult and chicks 8.3 Image: Dick Whitford
© Dick Whitford

Breeding behaviours

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.

  • Breeding Season: September to January in the south; January to April in the north
  • Clutch Size: 4 or 5


  • Pringle, J.D. 1985. The Waterbirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson/National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol 1. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.