Summer plumages are black or grey, streaked and spotted in bold patterns with white. Underparts are all white. For winter, dense plumage molts to an unspotted grey. During molting, loons are flightless: common, yellow-billed, arctic and Pacific loons (Gavia immer, G. adamsii, G. arctica and G. pacifica , respectively) molt in late winter and red-throated loons (G. stellata) in autumn. Sexes are similar. Bills are strong, straight and pointed; necks, long and stout; tails, very short.
The legs, set far back on the body and with flattened sides and fully webbed toes, are well adapted to swimming. Walking is accomplished only with difficulty. As the wings are comparatively small, loons must run along the water surface to become airborne.
Loons are known for their various cries, particularly a weird, mirthless laugh and an eerie, wolflike howl. These unique sounds are symbolic of Canada's North.
Loons come to shore only to nest, usually laying 2 olive-brown eggs with darker spots, on a heap of vegetation near the water's edge. Both parents incubate the nest for about 4 weeks and assist in rearing young. The uniformly greyish young leave the nest soon after hatching and often ride on their parents' backs.
Loons eat mainly fish, diving to depths of 75 m, usually for less than one minute.
Author R.D. JAMES
Links to Other Sites
See a description of the natural history and typical habitat of loons (Gavia) in Canada. From the "Hinterland Who's Who" website. Also includes video clips, summaries of related conservation issues, and educational resources.
All About Birds
Search this online bird identification guide for information on specific bird species found in North America. Click on the dynamic map of eBird sightings for a magnified view. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US.
Important Bird Areas in Canada
An extensive database of key facts and maps about bird populations, habitat types, and land use activities associated with Important Bird Areas across Canada. To search the database, click on "IBA database." Then, click on the "Show IBA List" button to see a list of these locations.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...