Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population is estimated to number c.610,000-3,500,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 129,000-208,000 pairs, which equates to 258,000-417,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). The population trend in Europe is reported as unknown (BirdLife International 2015) or stable (EBCC 2015).
Behaviour This species is sedentary, locally dispersive or fully migratory depending on the winter temperatures of its breeding grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Some dispersive movements in Africa are also related to seasonal rains and the appearance of temporary wetlands (Brown et al. 1982). The species breeds in solitary pairs, the timing of breeding varying geographically and depending on the growth of emergent vegetation and water-levels (del Hoyo et al. 1992). After breeding the species undergoes a flightless wing-moulting period during which it may assemble in loose groups (Fjeldsa 2004) (up to 700 individuals) (Snow and Perrins 1998) in rich feeding areas (Fjeldsa 2004). During the winter the species is largely solitary or occurs in small groups of 5-30 individuals (Brown et al. 1982, Snow and Perrins 1998). Habitat The species inhabits a wide range of small and shallow wetlands (del Hoyo et al. 1992) usually less than 1 m deep (Fjeldsa 2004) with rich vegetation (floating, submerged and emergent) and high densities of aquatic invertebrates, generally avoiding waters with large predatory fish (Konter 2001). Suitable habitats include small lakes, ponds, the sheltered bays and vegetated shores (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of larger freshwater, alkaline or saline lakes (Brown et al. 1982) and reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), slow-flowing rivers (Konter 2001), canals (del Hoyo et al. 1992), flood-plain oxbows, coastal brackish lagoons (Brown et al. 1982), seasonally inundated areas, swamps (Fjeldsa 2004), gravel pits (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004), sewage lagoons (Fjeldsa 2004) and rice-fields (Brown et al. 1982). Outside of breeding season it is common on more open waters and is occasionally observed along the coast in estuaries or sheltered bays protected from strong wave action (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When moulting, the species requires rich feeding areas (Fjeldsa 2004). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of adult and larval insects, especially mayflies, stoneflies, water bugs, beetles, flies, caddisflies and dragonflies, as well as molluscs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. freshwater snails) (Fjeldsa 2004), crustaceans, adult and juvenile amphibians (e.g. small frogs and newts) and occasionally small fish (up to 11 cm) (del Hoyo et al. 1992) during the winter (Konter 2001). Breeding site The nest is a floating platform of aquatic plant matter (del Hoyo et al. 1992) anchored to emergent vegetation (Fjeldsa 2004), submerged branches or bushes close to the edge of shallow wetlands (Brown et al. 1982). Management information In France it was found that the presence of aquatic macrophytes was the most important factor in attracting the species to new artificial habitats (such as gravel pits) (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004).
The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of this virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). In Europe numbers often fluctuate, mainly as a result of winter conditions, such as the marked decline in Britain after the cold winter of 1962–1963, and similarly in the Netherlands after that of 1984–1985. The species suffers from the transformation of wetlands by destruction, pollution or recreational use but this is often offset by construction of man-made ponds, reservoirs and dams, leading to expansion of species in many areas (Llimona et al. 2014). Utilisation The species is hunted for commercial (sold as food) and recreational purposes in Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).
Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. The following information refers to the species's range in Europe only: The species was included in the Grebes Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan published in 1997 (O'Donnel and Fjeldsa 1997). In France it was found that the presence of aquatic macrophytes was the most important factor in attracting the species to new artificial habitats (such as gravel pits) (Santoul and Mastrorillo 2004).
Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's range in Europe only: Monitoring and protection should be introduced to ensure the destruction of wetland habitats is mitigated and where possible prevented.
Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Tachybaptus ruficollis. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/little-grebe-tachybaptus-ruficollis on 05/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 05/12/2023.