arctica [gav' E uh ark' tik uh]
Although it is very similar to
the Pacific Loon in appearance, the Arctic Loon
can be distinguished from its close cousin by a white
flank patch before the tail, visible at the
waterline and in flight. The striped patch on the
side of the neck in breeding plumage is also more
conspicuous than the Pacific's (frequently
visible at some distance and in flight), and the
nape and hindneck are darker. The Siberian race
of Arctic loon (G. a. viridugularis),
which breeds in Alaska, typically has a green
iridescent throat patch (visible only at close
range), whereas the throat patches of the Pacific
and of the European race of Arctic loon (G.
a. arctica) are typically iridescent purple.
The Arctic loon is also slightly larger than the
Pacific loon -- 23-28 inches long,
wingspan of 43-51 inches.
The juvenile Arctic loon has pale fringes to
the feathers on the upperparts, giving it a
scaled appearance, as well as a slightly browner
plumage when compared with the adult.
Although it is a strong flier, the Arctic loon
is almost incapable of walking on land due to the
positioning of its legs. As a member of the
family Gaviidae, this species is a skilled diver
and is able to swim underwater; it can remain
underwater for up to eight minutes and reach
depths of up to 246 feet.
The circumpolar range of the Arctic loon
stretches from Alaska in the east to Siberia in
the west. During the winter months, the Arctic
loon migrates south to the coasts of the
northeast Atlantic and eastern and western
Pacific, as far south as the Mediterranean, Black
Sea, Caspian Sea, China, Japan and southern
Alaska. It breeds on tundra and taiga lakes and
marshy inlets, and spends the winter in coastal
areas and open ocean.
Courtship rituals such as bill-dipping,
splashing and diving are performed by both the
male and female Arctic loon at the beginning of
the breeding season. The nest is built by both
sexes and is usually made of a heap of plant
matter, sometimes mixed with mud, with floating
nests occasionally being made. The 1-3 brownish
eggs with scattered markings are incubated
primarily by the female, with help from the male.
The hatchlings are fed by both parents, and can
fly at 60-65 days.
Arctic loons feed on fish, mollusks,
crustaceans, and some amphibians and aquatic
Habits and Behaviors
The Arctic loon's call is a
harsh "kok-kok-kok-kok." Adults on
nesting grounds issue an eerie, long-carrying
moan or wail.
genus & species Gavia arctica
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