The Little Grebe can be seen on ponds, lakes, and slow-running rivers all over Japan. It migrates from its northerly habitat in Hokkaido and the Tohoku region to the southern islands for the winter. It often dives into the water and catches small fish or aquatic invertebrates with its pointed bill. Its song is a soft “Piron-piron”, but during the breeding season, its call, given singly or in duet, is a loud, trilled “Kere-kere-kere.”
Play birds singing
The Grebe is the smallest among freshwater birds, and when it is near an Eastern Spot-billed Duck, it is often mistaken as a duckling. But the shape of the Grebe’s bill and feet are different from those of a duck. Ducks have a horizontal flat bill and webbed feet, whereas, the Grebe has a pointed bill and flat toes with no webbing. Grebe numbers have been declining recently at certain ponds due to the decrease in their food source that has resulted from the introduction of alien fish species. In some such ponds the elimination of alien fish species has led to the revival of the Grebe population.
What the duck and the Grebe share in common is that their hatchlings mature quickly. A Grebe chick leaves its nest on its own soon after hatching (for small birds, the chicks mature slower, they hatch without feathers, and are raised in the nest). However, Grebe chicks have often been observed getting under the feathers of a parent for a while after hatching. This is thought to happen because it may not be able to control its body temperature well.
In recent years, the classification of species has changed significantly as a result of genetic research. In the case of birds, it was discovered that the Peregrine Falcon is a closer relative of the Parakeet and small birds than the hawk and the eagle, and the Japanese Crested Ibis and the heron are closer to the pelican than the stork. These discoveries have garnered much public attention. The Grebe is now classified as a relative of the flamingo, renowned for its long legs. In discussing evolution the relationship of Sparrows belonging to the Passeriformes family and Swifts belonging to the Apodiformes family is often presented. Even though they have different ancestors they are given as a typical example of convergent evolution: the similarity of their shape is the result of their shared way of living, that is catching and eating flying insects in mid flight. The situation of the Grebe and the flamingo is the complete opposite. It is thought that despite being closely related, because their way of living is different from each other, the Grebe developed a completely different shape than the flamingo.
The fall and winter plumage of the Little Grebe is different than in summer. In winter, the bird loses the rich rufous coloring on its cheeks, becoming lighter in color all over.
Looking at the feet of a Grebe under the water. Its three toes are flat.