The Birds of 2015 #14: Pacific Loon

Yet another example of genera present on both the east and west coasts of the United States, but with more species around in the west, the Pacific loon (Gavia pacifica) is one of five loon species you can catch sight of on the other side of the states! 

On the east coast, you can get both common (G. immer) and red-throated loons (G. stellata); if you make it up to the far northern and western reaches of the continent, you can add Pacific to that list, plus yellow-billed (G. adamsii) and Arctic (G. arctica) loons. Pretty neat, and an interesting biogeographical phenomenon! This same situation happens with other birds like grouse and alcids, to name a couple.

About the photograph

I actually took this photo while standing waist-deep in water. I was checking out an island in this pond on nest-search because it seemed like a good spot for a loon to nest; lo and behold, this highly-defensive parent surfaced from seemingly nowhere and gave me the good ol’ stink eye! It turns out one of the best ways to find loon nests is to watch the sketchy behavior of the highly-defensive parents.


Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii)

Also known as the White-billed Diver, the Yellow-billed Loon is a species of loon (Gaviiformes) that breeds in the Arctic and winters at sea along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean and northwestern Norway. Like other loons G. adamsii are typically found near large bodies of water, usually oceans or lakes. G. adamsii is a specialist fish eater and will prey on fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates by pursuit diving.


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Gaviiformes-Gaviidae-Gavia-G. adamsii

Images: Len Blumin and Muriel N.