Monday, March 25, 2013

Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata)

Red-throated Loon, notice how far back on the body, it's feet are
As winter is slowly winding down, and we are entering the spring season.  I want to discuss another with this visitor to our area.  The Red-throated Loon is another common visitor to our area, the numbers vary from a few too many depending on the year.  Last year, there were a large number of Red-throated Loons present, but this year a much smaller number have been sighted.  Because we only see the Red-throated Loons in the winter, we do not see them in their beautiful breeding plumage, and the distinctive red patch which helps give them their name.  An interesting fact, is that their Latin name stellata comes from the loons speckled back in their non-breeding plumage. As you look at the photographs please note the variation in their winter plumage.

The Red-throated Loon is the smallest of the world's loon species.  It breeds primarily in the Arctic regions of Eurasia North America and has been known to range on the West Coast as far South as Baja California peninsula, and on the East Coast as far South as Georgia.  It feeds mainly on marine and freshwater fish, but will also feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates.

Red-throated Loon, Notice that this load is starting to get the red patch on its neck

Red-throated Loon

"In Dawn's Early Light" Red-throated Loon, Notice the speckled back

Red-throated Loon

Soon we will say goodbye to these lovely birds as they make their way back up to the North land tundra for breeding.