Little grebe, also known as dabchick is the smallest resident waterbird at the lake. These birds are amazing hunters and spend most of their time diving or scanning the water surface for aquatic insects and fish. You can comfortably place one of these birds on the palm of your hand.
These little pocket rockets weigh in the ballpark of your average mobile phone(about 170 grams). But of course, size isn't everything. What these birds lack in size they more than make up for in attitude.
Little grebes are fairly common throughout India but most people may not notice them due to their small size. There are several subspecies of this bird with a slight variation in size inhabiting other regions across Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Pictured here is a little grebe in breeding plumage. Apparently, their dark brown feathers turn a lot paler when they are done with their parental duties.
I tried reading online about the sexual dimorphism in this species to validate my observations in the field, but none of the resources had any references with regards to this topic. As far as I can tell, there is a clear difference between males and females as illustrated in the next photo.
Just like the common coot, the little grebe seldom flies or walks on land. These birds are excellent divers and spend a significant portion of their day hunting for prey in the water and thus they are entirely dependent on clean water bodies for their survival.
These birds use an interesting mechanism to control their buoyancy in the water. The little grebe can retract and make the feathers stick to its body or fluff them up depending on whether it wants to sink lower or float. Here you can see a little grebe going for a dive with all of its feathers hugging the body.
I never thought I would be able to capture this bird in flight. Like I mentioned earlier, they prefer to stay in the water and only fly when they absolutely must. So I was super lucky to get this next shot. In fact, I was looking to capture some photos of the coots swimming in the water, when suddenly a lone grebe leapt up and quickly flew to another area across the lake. To observe this bird fly just inches above the lake surface and capture a burst of photos was a special treat! So, I shall take leave by posting one frame from that sequence.