RED-THROATED LOON

RED-THROATED LOON(Gavia stellata) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: Red-throated Loon breeding adults have a red throat, a grey head and neck, charcoal back, tail and wings, and white under parts. The sides from the neck are finely striated charcoal on white. The eyes are red, and the bill is black in summer and grey in winter. The legs and feet are grey. Outside the breeding season, adults have a white throat and neck, a black crown, nape, and upper parts, which are speckled or finely striated with white. The bill is light grey. Chicks are brown with brown eyes. Juveniles are a washed out version of the non-breeding adults. Sexes are similar. This diving bird is around 64 cm (24 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Gavia-stellata – The call of the loon has been described as ‘demented’ (origin of the ‘crazy as a loon’ idiom and the adjective ‘loony’, which means ‘crazy’ or ‘lunatic’), or a ‘lament’ (‘loon’ might be derived from Old Norse ‘lómr’ which means ‘lament’).
NAME: ‘Loon’ comes from Shetland ‘loom’ and refers to the bird’s poor ability to walk on the ground. The Latin genus name ‘Gavia’ has a complicated origin, as it originally was the name of a duck species, the ‘smew’. However loons are not related to ducks, even if they have webbed feet, but the name remained. As for the Latin species name ‘stellata’, it means ‘with stars’ and refers to the non-breeding adult plumage. This bird is called ‘Red-throated Diver’ in Europe.
HABITAT: Coastal tundra fresh water lakes that can be quite small, as this loon doesn’t need a long ‘take off strip’ of water to become airborne.
DIET: Fish, also vegetation, insects, crustaceans, and amphibians.
NESTING: Nest is a mound of vegetation near or on top of water. One or two green eggs are laid, incubated by the female (mostly). Chick(s) fed by both parents. This loon doesn’t carry the chicks(s) on their back.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in the Arctic around the globe. Winters along the coasts of North America, Europe and Asia.
Distribution map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-throated_loon#/media/File:Gavia_stellata_map.png
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, but fairly common in the spring, and common to very common in fall while on migration.
CONSERVATION: The red-throated loon population has declined in some areas but increased in others. Widespread range and common, not at risk. However vulnerable to habitat loss from coastal pollution and entanglement in fishing nets.
NOTES: The whole body shape of this loon, including the bill, is well adapted to swimming and diving. The bird often holds its head with the bill tilted upward. The bones of this loon have a higher density, which allows the bird to partially sink itself when frightened. It can also fly directly from land.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Common Loon, Pacific Loon
REFERENCES: https://www.thespruce.com/red-throated-loon-386371
https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/red-throated-loon
http://www.npolar.no/en/species/red-throated-diver.html (Norwegian Polar Institute)
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/red-throated-loon
https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Gavia_stellata/ (University of Michigan)
http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/birds/loon.html (Hinterland Who’s Who)
http://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ABNBA01010 (Montana Field Guide)

Red-throated Loon with young - near Olfusa, Iceland - June 6, 2009 - David Karna
Red-throated Loon with young – near Olfusa, Iceland – June 6, 2009 – David Karna
Red-throated Loon, non-breeding adult - Keyport, NJ - Feb. 26, 2009 - Peter Massas
Red-throated Loon, non-breeding adult – Keyport, NJ – Feb. 26, 2009 – Peter Massas

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