Least Grebe

Tachybaptus dominicus
Range Map

When I first visited south Texas in spring of 2020, the pandemic adversely affected my birding plans. The Least Grebe was a species I’d hoped to meet, and south Texas offered my best hope of meeting them. Before my visit ended, a few birding venues opened up. I tried finding these, the smallest of grebes, but to no avail. I returned home at the end of spring with a wealth of images of species, many of whom I’d never met before. The Least Grebe was not among them.

I returned to the region in 2021, and found them at most places I visited in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The 2020 famine had turned to a 2021 Least Grebe feast!

In the USA, only South Texas hosts these birds. Most of the world’s population lives south of the border with Mexico, including the West Indies, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America.

Modern science recognises five subspecies of Least Grebe:

  • T. d. brachypterus lives in south Texas, Mexico, and Central America.
  • T. d. bangsi lives in south Baja California (Mexico).
  • T. d. Dominicus lives in the northern Caribbean and the West Indies.
  • T. d. Brachyrhynchus lives across most of South America.
  • T. d. eisenmanni lives in western Ecuador (South America).

We call this bird “least” because of its diminutive size, but we might also justify the name because it is the least studied of all the members of the grebe clan. They are versatile in their preferred habitat, which includes temporary or permanent bodies of water. Either fresh or brackish will do. Anyplace from small ponds and ditches to lakes and slow-moving rivers and mangroves, these birds find attractive.

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