LOONs

Order Gaviiformes - 1 family    Family Gaviidae - 1 genus

Loons are famous for their hauntingly eerie call. The sexes have similar plumage, but the males are larger than the females. They are similar to cormorants and penguins. All of these birds have webbed feet, float low in the water, and chase fish by swimming underwater. The fact that a loon often abruptly dives for fish resulted in the birds being referred to as “divers” in the Old World. To aid their swimming and diving, their legs are located far back on their body. This results in their having great difficulty walking and this clumsy behavior resulted in the birds being termed “loons” in the New World. Grebes also have their legs located far back on their body and they too walk ungainly. To aid in their digestion of food, loons ingest pebbles from lake bottoms to help grind their food. In the past, lead fishing sinkers were also ingested along with the pebbles and that caused a decline in loon population. Fortunately, lead sinkers are now banned.

The bones of loons are denser than all other other flying birds. This extra weight lets them swim low in the water and prevents them from being too buoyant when swimming underwater. However, it does mean that their takeoffs for flying are problematic. Most species need to take off from water and must head into the wind while taking off. There have been instances of lakes freezing suddenly and loons dying because they could no longer take off.


Genus Gavia

Loon, Arctic  also Black-throated Loon   also  Black-Throated Diver  Gavia arctica  Found: North America (Alaska), Europe, Asia
The Arctic Loon has white underparts. Breeding has black back with white bars; black face; black sides of throat with white stripes; dark green throat. Nonbreeding has gray upperparts; white throat.
Similar to: Pacific Loon. Arctic Loon has white along flanks; Pacific Loon has more rounded head.
Image by: 1) Andreyostr  2) Hiyashi Halso  3) Linda Tanner - California   4) Carley Curtis   5) Robert Bergman of the US Fish and Wildlife Service  6, 7) Steve Garvie - Scotland 
2) Juvenile  3) Nonbreeding  4 - 7) Breeding



Loon, Common also Great Northern Diver Gavia immer   Found: North America, Europe
The Common Loon has white underparts. Breeding has black head, neck; black-and-white checkered back; white collar with black stripes. Nonbreeding has gray crown, back, bill; white eye-ring.
Similar to: Pacific Loon. Pacitic Loon has thinner bill than Common Loon. Nonbreeding Pacific Loon has more gray on neck. Nonbreeding Common Loon has white eye-ring; Pacific Loon has white cresent above and in front of eye.
Similar to: Red-throated Loon. Red-throated has thinner bill (usually tilted slight up) than Common Loon. Nonbreeding Red-throated Loon has lighter face than nonbreeding Common Loon.
Similar to: Yellow-billed Loon. Yellow-billed Loon has a yellowish bill and when nonbreeding has a ligher colored head than Common Loon.
Image by: 1) Alan D Wilson  - Texas   2) Dick Daniels - McGee Island, Maine  3, 5) Dick - North Carolina   4) Alan - British Columbia   6, 9, 10) Dick - New Hampshire  7) Elaine R Wilson - British Columbia   8)  Dick- New York  11) Sandy Cole - North Carolina
1, 2) Juvenile   3, 4) Nonbreeding  5) Adult feeding juvenile  6 - 10) Breeding



Loon, Pacific  Gavia pacifica    Found: North America (west coast, Alaska, northwest Canada), Asia
The Pacific Loon has white underparts. Breeding has black back with white bars; black face; black sides of throat with white stripes; dark throat. Nonbreeding has gray upperparts; white throat.
Similar to: Arctic Loon. Arctic Loon has white along flanks; Pacific Loon has more rounded head.
Similar to: Common Loon. Pacitic Loon has thinner bill than Common Loon. Nonbreeding Pacific Loon has more gray on neck. Nonbreeding Common Loon has white eye-ring; Pacific Loon has white cresent above and in front of eye.
Similar to: Red-throated Loon. Nonbreeding Red-throated Loon has lighter face than nonbreeding Pacific Loon. Nonbreeding Pacific Loon has no white behind the eyes.
Image by: 1) Len_Blumin  2) Mike's Birds - California  3) Lance and Erin - California    4)  Sara Grace - California  5) Tim_Bowman of the US Fish and Wildlife Service   6) Alan Vernon - Moss Landing harbor, California 
1, 2, 3, 4) Nonbreeding  5, 6) Breeding



Loon, Red-throated also Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata Found: North America, Europe, Asia
The breeding Red-throated Loon has a gray head; gray neck with red throat; brownish-black underparts; black pointed bill. Nonbreeding has blackish upperparts; gray crown, nape; white underparts, throat; pale bill.
Similar to: Common Loon. Red-throated has thinner bill (usually tilted slight up) than Common Loon. Nonbreeding Red-throated Loon has lighter face than nonbreeding Common Loon.
Similar to: Pacific Loon. Nonbreeding Red-throated Loon has lighter face than nonbreeding Pacific Loon. Nonbreeding Pacific Loon has no white behind the eyes.
Image by:  1) Len Blumin - California yearlin  2, 3, 4) Dick Daniels - North Carolina   5) Jinchin Lin - China  nonbreeding    6) Dave Menke - Alaska  7) David Karna - Iceland   8) Jason Crotty - California 
1) Yearling   2 - 5) Nonbreeding) 6, 7, 8) Breeding


Loon, Yellow-billed  also White-billed Diver  Gavia adamsii  Found: N. America (west coast, Alaska, northwest Canada), Euroope, Asia
The Yellow-billed Loon has white underparts. Breeding has a yellow bill; black head; white collar with black stripe. Nonbreeding has yellowish bill; brown upperparts, nape, crown; white throat.
Similar to: Common Loon. Yellow-billed Loon has a yellowish bill and when nonbreeding has a ligher colored head than Common Loon.
Image by: 1) Guy Monty - Vancouver, CA  2, 6) Len_Blumin off Half Moon Bay, California  3) Bill Bouton - California   4) Marcel Holyoak - California  5)  Omar Runolfsson - Iceland  7) Julio Mulero - California
1, 2) Juvenile  3, 4, 5) Nonbreeding  6, 7) Breeding







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