Birds – Red-throated Loon

(Urinator lumme)


Length—25 inches.

Male and Female—In summer: Crown and upper parts dull brownish black, with a greenish wash and profusely marked with white oval spots and streaks. Underneath white. Bluish gray on forehead, chin, upper throat, and sides of head. A triangular mark of chestnut red on fore neck. Bill black. Tail narrowly tipped with white. In winter and immature specimens: Similar to the common loon in winter, except that the back is spotted with white.

Range—Throughout northern parts of northern hemisphere; migrating southward in winter nearly across the United States.

Season—Winter visitor or resident.

It is not an easy matter at a little distance to distinguish this loon from the great northern diver, for the young of the year, which are most abundant migrants in the United States, lack the chestnut-red triangle on the throat, which is the bird’s chief mark of identification. Its smaller size is apparent only at close range. In habits these loons are almost identical; and although their name, used metaphorically, has come to imply a simpleton or crazy fellow, no one who has studied them, and certainly no one who has ever tried to shoot one, can call them stupid. It is only on land, where they are almost never seen, that they even look so.

Audubon found the red-throated loons nesting on the coast of Labrador, near small fresh-water lakes, in June. The young are able to fly by August, and in September can join the older migrants in their southern flight. In England these loons follow the movements of the sprats, on which they feed; hence one-of their common names by which our Canadian cousins often call them. Fishermen sometimes bring one of these divers that has been gorging on the imprisoned fish, to shore in their nets. For a fuller account of the bird’s habits, see the common loon.