Friday, 30 January 2015

B.O.T.D. Red-Throated Loon

Red-Throated Loon (Gavia stellata)

Bird of the Day (Jan 30, 2015)

Few outside the Arctic ever see the red throat of a red-throated loon. This handsome emblem appears only during the mating season and has disappeared by the time migrating birds reach their coastal wintering areas in October. It may still be present when the birds head north in April. Most people know the red-throat in winter dress only, slim and grey with a star-studded back.

This smallest of the loons is also the most agile, at least in an aquatic environment. A loon's feet are positioned well to the rear of its body - perfect for swimming, but ill-suited for walking. Walking in fact, is so difficult that for short distances loons may simply push themselves along on their bellies. Getting airborne is no easy task for most of them, either. Common and Arctic loons need open water with lots of room for a running start in order to take off. If either of these lands on a wet parking lot, mistaking it for a dark body of water, the bird will be grounded, unable to take flight. Only the red-throat can occasionally launch itself from land and escape this trap.

In spring, even before the shallow tundra pools are freed form the sheath of winter ice, red-thraoted loons reach the Arctic. Arctic foxes and jaegers take a toll in eggs and young birds, but the red-throat is a dogged defender, and its dagger like bill a weapon that commands respect.

To hear the Red-Throated Loon's song and more go to: