Great crested grebes Podiceps cristatus, photographed by Jan Ševčík.

Belongs within: Aequorlitornithes.

The Podicipedidae, grebes and dabchicks, are specialised aquatic birds found on freshwater lakes and ponds. Grebes have large feet set well back on the body with lobed toes, tails reduced to a vestigial tuft, and small narrow wings. Grebe nests are floating platforms made from pieces of vegetation and anchored to reeds in shallow water; both sexes participate in the construction of the nest and the rearing of the chicks. Courtship displays are often complex, comprising mutual or complementary movements by both partners.

Characters (from Cramp & Simmons 1977): Body elongated or rotund; feet placed far back. Neck relatively long. Wings small and narrow; flight-feathers curved and, when folded, fit closely to body, hidden under contour plumage. 12 primaries, p10 longest, p12 minute; 17–22 secondaries; usually diastataxic. Tail-tuft short, downy; not composed of normal remiges. Bill varying from long and stout or pointed to short and sturdy. Nostrils narrow slits. Narrow strip of skin on lores bare. Tarsi markedly flattened lateraly, serrated along rear edge. Toes broadly lobed, front three connected by small webs at base; hind toe raised, flattened, with small lobe. Nails broad and flat; those of middle toe laterally serrated. Oil gland feathered. Feathers with aftershaft. Sexes similar in plumage (female often somewhat duller), male averaging larger. Breeding plumage characterised by display markings on head; non-breeding plumage plain, dark above. Plumage loose on upperparts, downy on back and rump; dense and satiny on breast and belly. Moult of flight feathers simultaneous, causing temporary flightlessness. Young precocial and aberrantly semi-nidifugous (leave nest but at first carried by parents). Usually one downy plumage with pattern of stripes; often conspicuous, especially on head and neck. Definitive feathers developing from same follicles, pushing out down. Loral patches large and at first bare. Juvenile resembles adult non-breeding but often retains traces of striping on head; reaches fully adult plumage in second calendar year.

Podicipedidae [Colymbiformes, Podicepinae, Podicepsinae, Podicipediformes, Podicipinae, Podicipitidae, Podicipitiformes]
    |  i. s.: Poliocephalus Selby 1840 CC10
    |           |--*P. poliocephalus (Jardine & Selby 1827) (see below for synonymy) CC10
    |           `--P. rufopectus (Gray in Dieffenbach 1843) (see below for synonymy) CC10
    |         Miobaptus Švec 1982 M02
    |           `--*M. walteri Švec 1982 M02, JM14, M02 [=Podiceps walteri M02]
    |--Podilymbus Lesson 1831 JT12, B94 [Podilymbidae]
    |    |--P. gigas HSS13 [=P. podiceps gigas FP64]
    |    `--P. podiceps (Linnaeus 1758) [=Colymbus podiceps] CS77
    |         |--P. p. podiceps CS77
    |         |--P. p. antarcticus (Lesson 1842) CS77
    |         `--P. p. antillarum Bangs 1913 CS77
    `--+--Tachybaptus Reichenbach 1849 JT12, CC10
       |    |  i. s.: T. pelzelnii (Hartlaub 1861) CC10
       |    |         T. rufolavatus (Delacour 1932) CC10
       |    |--T. dominicus JT12
       |    `--+--T. novaehollandiae (Stephens in Shaw 1826) JT12, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
       |       `--T. ruficollis (Pallas 1764) JT12, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
       |            |--T. r. ruficollis VP89
       |            |--T. r. capensis (Salvadori 1884) CS77
       |            |--T. r. iraquensis (Ticehurst 1923) CS77
       |            `--T. r. poggei VP89
       `--+--Aechmophorus JT12
          |    |--A. clarki JT12
          |    `--A. occidentalis JT12
          `--Podiceps Latham 1787 JT12, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
               |  i. s.: P. miocenicus Kessler 1984 M02
               |         P. occipitalis JT12
               |         P. oligocaenus FP64
               |         P. rufolavatus FP64
               |         P. sociatus (Navás 1922) [=*Thiornis sociatus] M02
               |         P. taczanowskii JT12
               |--+--P. andinus CS77
               |  |--P. gallardoi JT12
               |  `--P. nigricollis Brehm 1831 JT12, M02 (see below for synonymy)
               |       |--P. n. nigricollis CS77
               |       |--P. n. californicus Heermann 1854 CS77
               |       `--P. n. gurneyi (Roberts 1919) CS77
               `--+--Rollandia JT12
                  |    |--R. microptera JT12 [=Podiceps micropterus FP64]
                  |    `--R. rolland JT12
                  `--+--+--*P. cristatus (Linnaeus 1758) CC10, BKB15, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
                     |  |    |--P. c. cristatus CC10
                     |  |    |--P. c. australis Gould 1844 (see below for synonymy) CC10
                     |  |    `--P. c. infuscatus Salvadori 1884 CC10
                     |  `--P. major (Boddaert 1783) JT12, CS77
                     `--+--P. auritus (Linnaeus 1758) BKB15, M02 (see below for synonymy)
                        `--P. grisegena (Boddaert 1783) BKB15, M02 [=Colymbus grisegena M02]
                             |--P. g. grisegena CS77
                             `--P. g. holboellii Reinhardt 1854 [incl. P. grisegena balchasensis] CS77

Inorganic: Padiceps ruficollis minilorientalis Okamura 1987 O87

Podiceps Latham 1787 JT12, CC10 [=Lophaethyia Agassiz 1846 CC10, Lophaithyia Kaup 1829 CC10, Podicipes Oken 1839 CC10; incl. Thiornis Navás 1922 M02]

Podiceps auritus (Linnaeus 1758) BKB15, M02 [=Colymbus auritus M02; incl. Podiceps arcticus Boie 1822 CS77, Podiceps cornutus (Gmelin 1788) CS77, Fulica pisana Portis 1889 M02, Podicipes pisanus M02]

*Podiceps cristatus (Linnaeus 1758) CC10, BKB15, CC10 [=Colymbus cristatus CC10, *Lophaethyia cristata CC10, Lophaethyria (l. c.) cristata CC10, *Lophaithyia cristata CC10]

Podiceps cristatus australis Gould 1844 [incl. P. cristatus christiani Mathews 1911, P. hectori Buller 1865] CC10

Podiceps nigricollis Brehm 1831 JT12, M02 [=Proctopus nigricollis M01; incl. Colymbus caspicus Hablizl 1783 (nom. rej.) CS77, Podiceps caspicus CS77]

*Poliocephalus poliocephalus (Jardine & Selby 1827) [=Podiceps poliocephalus; incl. Pod. poliocephalus cloatesi Mathews 1912, Pod. nestor Gould 1837] CC10

Poliocephalus rufopectus (Gray in Dieffenbach 1843) [=Podiceps (Poliocephelus [l. c.]) rufopectus, Podiceps rufipectus, Podicipes rufipectus; incl. Fulica novaezelandiae Colenso 1844, F. novazealandiae] CC10

Tachybaptus novaehollandiae (Stephens in Shaw 1826) JT12, CC10 [=Podiceps novaehollandiae CC10; incl. P. fluviatilis carterae Mathews 1912 CC10, P. gularis Gould 1837 CC10, P. fluviatilis parryi Mathews 1912 CC10]

Tachybaptus ruficollis (Pallas 1764) JT12, M02 [=Colymbus ruficollis M02, Podiceps ruficollis M02; incl. C. minor CC10, *Tachybaptus minor CC10]

*Type species of generic name indicated


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[CS77] Cramp, S., & K. E. L. Simmons (eds) 1977. Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palaearctic vol. 1. Ostrich to Ducks. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

[FP64] Fisher, J., & R. T. Peterson. 1964. The World of Birds: A comprehensive guide to general ornithology. Macdonald: London.

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[M01] Madarász, J. 1901. Madarak [Vögel]. In: Horváth, G. (ed.) Zichy Jenő Gróf Harmadik Ázsiai Utazása [Dritte Asiatische Forschungsreise des Grafen Eugen Zichy] vol. 2. Zichy Jenő Gróf Harmadik Ázsiai Utazásának Állattani Eredményei [Zoologische Ergebnisse der Dritten Asiatischen Forschungsreise des Grafen Eugen Zichy] pp. 21–39. Victor Hornyánszky: Budapest, and Karl W. Hierseman: Leipzig.

[M02] Mlíkovský, J. 2002. Cenozoic Birds of the World. Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press: Praha.

[O87] Okamura, C. 1987. New facts: Homo and all Vertebrata were born simultaneously in the former Paleozoic in Japan. Original Report of the Okamura Fossil Laboratory 15: 347–573.

[VP89] Viney, C., & K. Phillipps. 1989. Birds of Hong Kong 5th ed. Government Printer: Hong Kong.

Last updated: 29 August 2019.

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