Black-throated loon

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Black-throated loon
Plongeon arctique nid.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gaviiformes
Family: Gaviidae
Genus: Gavia
Species: G. arctica
Binomial name
Gavia arctica
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • G. a. arctica
  • G. a. viridigularis
Gavia arctica distribution map.png
Range of G. arctica      Breeding range     Wintering range

The black-throated loon (Gavia arctica) is a migratory aquatic bird found in the northern hemisphere. The species is known as an Arctic loon in North America and the black-throated diver in Eurasia. Its current name is a compromise proposed by the International Ornithological Committee.[2]


The black-throated loon was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work, Systema Naturae.[3] The genus name Gavia comes from the Latin for "sea mew", as used by ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder.[4]


Breeding adults are 58 to 77 cm (23 to 30 in) in length with a 100 to 130 cm (39 to 51 in) wingspan, shaped like a smaller, sleeker version of the great northern diver.[5] Body mass is reportedly from 2–3.4 kg (4.4–7.5 lb).[6] They have a grey head, black throat, white underparts and chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin and foreneck white. Its bill is grey or whitish and dagger-shaped. In all plumages, a white flank patch distinguishes this species from all other divers including the otherwise almost identical Pacific diver.


It breeds in Eurasia and occasionally in western Alaska. It winters at sea, as well as on large lakes over a much wider range.


This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater. It flies with neck outstretched. It feeds on fish, insects, crustaceans and amphibians.

The calls include a yodelling high-pitched wail and harsh growls, similar but lower pitched than Pacific loon.

See the family Gaviidae for more details on general behaviour.


Breeding and non-breeding Arctic loons
Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden, Germany

The black-throated diver is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Instructions for constructing and deploying artificial floating islands to provide black-throated divers with nesting opportunities are given in Hancock (2000).

In 2007, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) stated that it was surprised by an increase in the last 12 years in the breeding figures in the UK for the red-throated diver and the rarer black-throated diver of 16% and 34% respectively due to the anchoring of 58 man-made rafts in lochs. Both species decreased elsewhere in Europe.

The black-throated diver is the current school emblem of Achfary Primary School.

Dr Mark Eaton, an RSPB scientist, traced the drop in overall numbers to warming of the North Sea which reduced stocks of the fish on which they feed.[7]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Gavia arctica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Gill, F.; Wright, M.; Donsker, D., eds. (2009). "IOC World Bird List (v 2.2)". Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  3. ^ (Latin) Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiae [Stockholm]: Laurentii Salvii. 
  4. ^ Johnsgard, Paul A. (1987). Diving Birds of North America. University of Nevada–Lincoln. ISBN 0-8032-2566-0. 
  5. ^ "Arctic Loon". eNature. 2011. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. 
  6. ^ Dunning Jr., John B., ed. (1992). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5. 
  7. ^ "Rise in divers mystifies experts". BBC NEWS. 7 September 2007. 


  • Appleby, R.H.; Madge, S.C.; Mullarney, Killian (1986). "Identification of divers in immature and winter plumages". British Birds 79 (8): 365–391. 
  • Birch, A.; Lee, C.T. (1997). "Field identification of Arctic and Pacific Loons". Birding 29: 106–115. 
  • Birch, A.; Lee, C.T. (1995). "Identification of the Pacific Diver - a potential vagrant to Europe". Birding World 8: 458–466. 

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