Red-throated Loon (Diver)
This streamlined bird is an underwater specialist, also known as the "Diver"
What you need to know about the Red-throated Loon (Diver)
Our Expert Says… "These are quite a shy species, and often they will lie low in the water which can make them difficult to spot, but as guides, we can usually help you to get a good encounter. When the chicks are very small and first leave the nest, they can often be seen taking a ride on the parents' backs!"
Red-throated loons (known as red-throated divers in the UK) are arctic-breeding water birds, the smallest in the loon family. It is named for the highly distinctive red patch it develops on its throat feathers during the breeding season.
Like all loons, the red-throated loon’s body is perfectly suited to its aquatic life. It has dense bones compared to most birds, which allow it to submerge more easily. Its legs are positioned further back than many other aquatic bird species which gives it more a more powerful and efficient swimming stroke. It also has a highly streamlined body shape, including a sharply pointed bill, which allows it to move underwater with ease.
Red-throated loons are fish-catching specialists, but they are also known to eat mollusks, crustaceans, frogs, and insects. They can dave up to 30ft when chasing prey, and can stay underwater for up to a minute at a time.
At around 63cm (25”) long, the red-throated loon has a wingspan of about 1.1m (40”) and weighs on average 2.3kg (5lb). In summer, adults have a dark grey head and neck with that distinctive red patch, white underparts, and a dark greyish-brown back. Winter plumage is drabber, with a mainly white neck and head, a grey cap and grey back to the neck, and a dark back.
Adults molt all of their feathers at once each year, meaning that for about 3 or 4 weeks in late summer to autumn they are flightless until their new wing feathers come in.