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Red-throated Loon - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Red Throated Diver)
Adult in breeding plumage
Photo © by Gallus
Ardnamurchan, Scotland, UK, 21 June 2004

Alternative name: Red-throated Diver

Gavia stellata


Winter plumage in flight
Photo © by targetman
Lincolnshire, UK, 29 October 2018

Length. 53-69cm (21-27"), Wingspan 110cm (43")
The smallest diver (loon) with head and bill held at an upward angle are useful identification features at all seasons.
Adult breeding: Grey-brown above with scattered white steaks and spots and whitish below. Head grey with black and white vertical stripes on the nape and dark red throat patch.
Adult non-breeding: Much duller, grey-brown spotted with white above and whitish below. Dark crown and nape blend into white face and foreneck, lacking the sharp contrast of other divers (loons).
Immature: Similar to winter adult but with gray wash across foreneck; smaller white spots above.

Similar Species

The rather larger Black-throated Diver/Arctic Loon, which holds its bill straight, has vertical white stripes on the sides of the neck and shows a white rear flank patch. In non-breeding plumage, Red-throated often shows broad white area on its sides at the water line, not just on flanks.


Photo © by polarfoto
Prestvanent, Tromso, Norway, 3 September 2008

Circumpolar, the most widespread and numerous diver, breeding generally north of 50° North latitude.
Breeds in North America from the Aleutians and Alaska south to British Columbia and east to eastern Quebec, Newfoundland and Greenland. In the Palearctic breeds in Iceland, north and west Scotland, over much of Scandinavia and across northern Russia including Bear Island, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya, east to the Pacific coast breeding on Sakhalin and Kamchatka.

Winters in North America from the Aleutians south to north-west Mexico on the Pacific coast, the Great Lakes, and on the Atlantic south to Florida and the Gulf Coast. European wintering range mainly from Iceland and Norway south to Biscay and the northern Mediterranean, also in the southern Baltic, the Black and Caspian Sea. Rarely reaches the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. In the far east, winters off Japan, less commonly south to Taiwan.

Vagrant to north-west Mexico the Azores, Canary Islands, and Hong Kong.


This is a monotypic species[1]. The population breeding on Svalbard has been named a separate race, G. s. squamata. However this subspecies is no longer considered valid[4].

Adult in winter
Photo © by DaveT
Royal Military Canal, Hythe, Kent, UK, 24 January 2015


Breeds beside shallow lakes and pools on moorland and tundra, sometimes slow-flowing rivers and sheltered coasts.

On passage and in winter most move to coastal waters and occurs on estuaries, bays and sheltered seas, sometimes on large inland lakes.



Usually solitary but may be loosely colonial in some areas. Breeds late May-September. Nest a bare scrape beside water or a more substantial mound of vegetation built in shallow water. Eggs: 2 (rarely 1), olive-buff to dark olive-brown with sparse black blotches (75 x 48mm). Incubated by both sexes but mainly female for 24-29 days. Young tended by both sexes and fly at about 42 days


Photo © by Digiscoper321
West Sweden, July 2017

Fish caught during 60 second dives.


A mournful wail Red-throated Loon audio clip


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Barr, J. F., C. Eberl, and J. W. McIntyre (2000). Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.513
  3. Carboneras, C., Christie, D.A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52473 on 4 September 2018).
  4. Sangster, G., Collinson, J.M., Helbig, A.J., Knox, A.G. & Parkin, D.T. (2005) Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: third report. Ibis 147(4): 821–826.
  5. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  6. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition

Recommended Citation

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