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Australasian Grebe

(Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)
Alternate name(s): "Little Grebe", "Black-throated Grebe", "Red-necked Grebe", "Dabchick*", "White-bellied Diver"
Aboriginal name(s): "ngoonan" (WA)

Size: 23-25 cm

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Australasian Grebe at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information


Race "novaehollandiae"



Close-up frontal view of an Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of I. Duncan)
[Glen Iris wetlands, Melbourne, VIC, May 2013]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2014]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Grebe (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Herdsman Lake, Perth, WA, August 2015]

Lateral view of an Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

Australasian Grebe preening
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2010]

Australasian Grebe, behind, with a juvenile bird, in front
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2009]

Group photo of several species of water birds - a pair of Australian Wood Ducks (centre), Grey Teals (left and right) and Australasian Grebes (the two smaller birds)
[Near Narrabri, NSW, August 2007]

Group photo of several species of water birds - a pair of Australian Wood Ducks (far left), a family of Grey Teals (centre) and a pair of Australasian Grebes (front)
[Near Narrabri, NSW, August 2007]


Frontal view of a non-breeding Australasian Grebe

Frontal view of a non-breeding Australasian Grebe after a dive
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2012]

Frontal view of a non-breeding Australasian Grebe flapping its wings (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, May 2016]

Close-up lateral view of a non-breeding Australasian Grebe
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2012]

Lateral view of a non-breeding Australasian Grebe (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Lateral view of a non-breeding Australasian Grebe
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

The same Australasian Grebe as above, diving head first

Something one does not often get to see - Australasian Grebe in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]


Watching these Australasian Grebes one could get the impression that the adult bird was teaching the chicks how to dive
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2011]

Two immature Australasian Grebes
[Near Maules Creek, NSW, March 2009]

Here an immature Australasian Grebe in different light conditions
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Near-dorsal view of an Australasian Grebe chick on a small farm dam
[Near Edgeroi, NSW, December 2016]

Here a precocial Australasian Grebe chick seen with one of its parents
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2012]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Oct - Jan Eggs: 4 - 5 Incubation period: 21 - 24 days Fledging age: 42 - 49 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Australasian Grebes breed Dec - Apr. Also in other areas the breeding season may extend into autumn. At Eulah Creek a pair was observed raising three chicks that hatched in March 2013.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Aquatic plants Height above ground: N/A

Nests can be floating platforms on water surface, anchored to reeds.

Here an Australasian Grebe building its nest in the middle of a small pond

Australasian Grebe on its nest on a sewage pond, with a chick (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Australasian Grebe nest on our small farm dam when it was full for the first time in 10 years; note how this nest has a flat top - the reeds are covering eggs
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2011]

The same Australasian Grebe nest about 2 weeks later; now it has the form of a crater, because the eggs have hatched...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2012]

... and this little Australasian Grebe chick has emerged
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2012]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 36 x 25 mm Colour: Light-brown to dark-brown Shape: Tapered oval

Due to their absorbent surface, eggs darken significantly during incubation.

By lifting the "lid" of an Australasian Grebe nest one can see the eggs, here a clutch of 4 (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Near Baradine, NSW, 1980ies]


Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Outside the breeding season Australasian Grebes can be observed in large groups.

Part of a group of about 100 Australasian Grebes in breeding, non-breeding and immature plumages
[Split Rock Dam, NSW, Mayy 2013]

Australasian Grebes can re-surface after a dive with only the head showing above water - this way they are very hard to spot when caught out on open water without vegetation for protective cover
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2013]

Food, Diet

Australasian Grebes usually dive to catch their prey, such as small aquatic creatures including crustaceans, up to several metres under water. We have also seen them take insects at the water surface.

This Australasian Grebe has caught a fair-sized fish
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, June 2012]

Australasian Grebe chasing Gerridae water bugs; it was observed not skimming the water surface, but snapping at individual insects at speed
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, June 2015]


For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

ausgrebe_20140403.mp3 novaehollandiae
Territorial call? © MD
ausgrebe_20140401.mp3 novaehollandiae
Warning call (pair Q&A) © MD
ausgrebe_20161221.mp3 novaehollandiae
Warning calls © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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