Like many other grebes, the New Zealand dabchick performs elaborate courtship rituals, involving preening, diving under their partner and head-shaking; when they jerk their head back and forth, as if pecking like a hen (7). Breeding occurs all year round, with egg-laying peaking between August and February. Nests are formed from a loose pile of aquatic plants, which are anchored to emergent vegetation, hidden under boat shelters or in small caves partially under water (2) (4). Two to three eggs are laid at a time and both parents take it in turn to incubate them for 22 – 23 days (2). The emerging chicks are independent after about 70 days (8).
As a waterbird, the New Zealand dabchick feeds primarily on aquatic invertebrates, such as freshwater crayfish, molluscs and leeches. They obtain this food mainly by diving, at which they are highly competent, and are able to stay underwater for over 30 seconds. Only the largest food items are brought up to the surface, while most are swallowed underwater. They can also be seen pecking food from the water’s surface, or grabbing midges and flying insects from the air (2).