Tim Melling – Little Grebe eating a Bullhead

Tim writes: I used to catch Bullheads (Cottus gobio) in a small stream near my home as a child, but I haven’t seen one for maybe 50 years.  That is until two days ago when I watched this Little Grebe emerge from the water with one.  These fish are also known as Miller’s Thumb and have declined in number since my childhood.  But they apparently hide under stones during the day and come out at dusk.  I do remember turning over stones to find them as a child.  Now during the summer Little Grebes eat mainly insects (eg waterboatmen), crustaceans (eg freshwater shrimps) and small amphibians (eg tadpoles).  But they do eat small fish, especially in winter and especially sticklebacks.  I was keen to see if Little Grebes had been reported eating Bullheads and of course they have.  Bullheads get a mention in both BWP and Witherby.   But Witherby’s Handbook goes on to say that Bullheads have caused death by choking in Little Grebes.  But no such mention with spiny sticklebacks.  This was near Matlock in South Derbyshire.

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2 Replies to “Tim Melling – Little Grebe eating a Bullhead”

  1. Interesting photograph and story, thank you.
    I didn’t know at the time, when I was a child how infrequently I would see little grebe in later years. Consequently it’s always a delight to get a sighting near my home now.

  2. We have Bullheads in the stream in the garden along with occasional Stone loach and small Trout, although the latter has declined with a course change in the stream beyond our boundary. Sticklebacks abound in our pound and ditch. Little Grebes have not visited but winter nearby on the Severn and no doubt take small fish perhaps including the rather common here Bullhead, along with loach, minnows and perhaps small Trout or even Salmon. Fish are fascinating as are Little Grebes.

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