Fr: Grèbe de Nouvelle-Zélande
Maori: Weweia
Ang: New Zealand Grebe - New Zealand Dabchick
All: Maoritaucher
Esp: Zampullín Maorí
Ita: Svasso della Nuova Zelanda
Nd: Nieuw-Zeelandse Fuut
Sd: Maoridopping


Veitch, Dick
Courtesy of Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai
Department of Conservation

John Anderson
John Anderson Photo Galleries

Jean Michel Fenerole
Photos d’Oiseaux du monde

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

KNOW YOUR NEW ZEALAND BIRDS by Lynnette Moon - New Holland Publishers – ISBN: 1869660897

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)

New Zealand bird status between 2008 and 2012

New Zealand Birds Online

New Zealand birds and birding (Narena Olliver)

Department of Conservation

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

ARKive (Christopher Parsons)

HBW Alive


Home page

Family Podicipedidae
Summary cards


New Zealand Grebe or New Zealand Dabchick
Poliocephalus rufopectus

Podicipediformes Order – Podicipedidae Family

The New Zealand Grebe or Weweia (Maori name) is endemic to New Zealand. Formerly present on North and South Islands, this species is now found only in the North Island where it frequents lakes and lagoons.
These birds are entirely aquatic and their morphology is perfectly adapted to their lives on the water. They are shy and secretive birds.

Length: 28-30 cm
Weight: 230-270 g

The adult has dark plumage, mostly brownish-black on the upperside. On the wings, we can see a white panel at bases of flight-feathers, conspicuous in flight. The small tail is a tuft of black, short, silky feathers.
The underparts are dusky to silvery-white, but breast and foreneck show chestnut tinge.
The dark glossy head is finely streaked with silvery, long, narrow feathers on crown sides to the nape and on the cheeks.
The black bill is short and pointed. The eyes are pale yellow. Legs and feet are dark grey. It has lobe-webbed feet, set well back on its body. The flattened toes are bordered with a web of skin, making the bird very efficient when swimming, but very clumsy while walking on the ground.

The adults are paler and duller in non-breeding plumage. Both sexes are similar in plumage, but the male is slightly larger than the female, and it has longer bill.
The juvenile has striped head and upperneck and mostly white throat, whereas the upperparts are like in adults. The young bird has pale grey eyes and fleshy pale grey bill with some black markings.

The New Zealand Grebe is patchily distributed in the North Island from Northland to Wairarapa. It can be seen on lakes and ponds on the volcanic plateau, Rotorua Lakes area, Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa.

The New Zealand Grebe prefers clear water and freshwater lakes and ponds. It is often found on sheltered lakes with banks fringed by thick aquatic vegetation. This species occurs from sea-level up to 740 metres of elevation.

The New Zealand Grebe is more vocal during the breeding season. The adults give short chattering calls. When alarmed, it produces rasping sounds and low notes. We can also hear a shrill “wee-ee-ee” whistling sound only audible at close range.

The New Zealand Grebe spends most of its life on or under water, as for feeding or for nesting.
It frequently dives while searching for preys, and often disappears from sight. It appears again several metres away, up to 50 metres sometimes.
It feeds primarily on aquatic insects and their larvae. It pecks them from the surface or catches them from the air. It dives for small fish and crustaceans, remaining under water for up to 30 seconds, in average 10 to 25 seconds. It dives and swims very well thanks to its specialized feet.

Title: New Zealand Dabchick
Photographer: Veitch, Dick
Date: 1965

The New Zealand Grebe has small fragmented population estimated at 1,900/2,000 birds (1,200/1,400 mature individuals), but suspected to be declining.
They are threatened by introduced predators, decline of water quality, habitat loss and increase of disturbance by boats and aquatic recreational activities.
The New Zealand Grebe is considered as Nationally Vulnerable in New Zealand, and globally classified as Vulnerable.
The New Zealand Grebe breeds all year round. The displays start in June-July and the laying occurs between August and February.
They nest on freshwater lakes or pools. The nest is built on water. This is a floating structure anchored to the aquatic vegetation. It is made with waterweed and rush stems. However, the nest may also be built in a small cave and partially underwater, or under the floor of a boatshed on the shore.
The female lays 2-3 bluish eggs, becoming stained brown in the nest. Both adults incubate during 22-23 days. The chicks are able to swim and dive soon after hatching, but they often ride on parent’s backs. They are fed by both adults, and fledge about 70 days after hatching. They remain in family group until they are fully grown.

The New Zealand Grebe is sedentary, although it may perform some local dispersion, usually according to food resources.
Post-breeding flocks can be seen in more open lakes and ponds between February and September.

The New Zealand Grebe is rarely seen in flight, but it sometimes migrates from one lake to another at night. It runs a long way over the water in order to take off, while performing rapid wingbeats which are continuous throughout the flight. It flies with neck outstretched forwards and feet trailing behind. Most flights are done by night.

During the breeding season, they perform aquatic territorial and courtship displays. The birds preen, turn and shake the head and skim across the water surface while chasing each other. They are monogamous and solitary nesters.
They are strongly territorial and become aggressive against intruders with the head lowered forwards, arched neck and back, and half-raised wings. They perform short rushes and low skimming flights over water towards the intruder.  
Other postures such as rising the rear-end of the body and fluffing the rump feathers are used as territorial advertisement.