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Dressing down for winter

July 16, 2013

Australasian Grebe in winter plumage

Australasian Grebe in winter plumage

With the breeding season over and the need to impress the opposite sex gone with it, many birds revert to their drabber outfits for winter. This Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) is a good example. The photo at left was taken in June and the one below in January, both in adjacent dams on the same property near Strath Creek. Incidentally, Ronlit informs us that the scientific name is from the Greek ‘tachys’ meaning fast and ‘bapto’ meaning to dip into water (as in baptism) – thus it could be interpreted as New Holland Fast Dipper, referring to its habit of quickly diving under water when disturbed rather than flying off.
Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage

Australasian Grebe in breeding plumage

Known to many as the Little Grebe or Dabchick, the plumage of both sexes is actually similar but the black head, oval yellow face patch and black bill with pale tip are all confined to the breeding period which normally spans from September to January or even later. Our photo of a sleek very wet grebe unfortunately does not show the rich chestnut stripe on its face/neck that it also has during breeding. In the winter phase it can be confused with the Hoary-headed Grebe which is slightly larger, has a quite different breeding plumage and in fact belongs to a different genus, Poliocephalus meaning grey-headed.

The distinctive call of the Australasian Grebe can be heard by clicking on the audio bar below.

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