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threatened and/or endangered

Pacific Loon Gavia pacifica


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Pacific Loon, breeding
credit: Tim Bowman, USFWS

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Gaviidae, Loons view all from this family

Description ADULT In summer, has gray nape and head; throat is black and sides of neck are adorned with black and white lines. Black back has checkerboardlike pattern of white spots, while underparts are white. In winter, has mainly gray-brown upperparts (darker on back than on neck) and whitish underparts. Demarcation between brown and white on neck is well defined, more so than in Common. Most birds show a narrow, dark "chinstrap." JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but back looks "scaly."

Dimensions Length: 24" (61 cm)

Habitat Locally common breeder on large northern lakes. Outside breeding season, mainly coastal; rare on inland lakes.

Observation Tips Easiest to find in winter.

Range Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Eastern Canada, California, Western Canada, Alaska, Southwest

Voice On breeding territory, utters croaking and grunting calls.

Similar Species Arctic Loon G. arctica (L 26-27 in) has larger bill and more angular head. In summer, similar to Pacific, but gray on head and neck is darker. In winter, dark elements of plumage are darker than in Pacific (especially neck); patch of white feathering usually visible at water level towards stern. Rare breeder in western Alaska; very rare in winter on Pacific coasts.

Discussion Buoyant waterbird. Relatively small, daggerlike bill is held horizontally. Sexes are similar.