Arctic loon

The most numerous wild bird species in the world

A captivating and specialized bird species of the high latitudes. This bird is highly adapted to aquatic life in the cold, northern regions it calls home, spanning from Eastern Siberia across to Western Alaska.

Distinctive in appearance, the Arctic Loon boasts a black throat, which sharply contrasts with its white-spotted back during the breeding season. The striking white stripes on its neck and the dark grey nape provide a dramatic pattern that sets it apart from other loon species. In winter plumage, these birds become more uniformly dark on the head and back, with the white neck stripes fading significantly.

One of the more pronounced features of the Arctic Loon is its robust, straight bill, which is larger than that of the Pacific Loon. It also has a characteristic white patch on its rear flank, a feature that can be especially prominent in flight or when the bird is sitting on the water.

Arctic Loons have a strong preference for breeding in the freshwater lakes of the taiga and tundra, where they find the isolation and tranquility necessary for raising their chicks. These breeding sites are typically characterized by cold, clear waters, which are essential for their diving foraging strategy. In winter, they migrate to coastal bays and inshore waters, where the sea is less likely to freeze, allowing them continual access to their aquatic prey.

Their diet is primarily piscivorous, consisting mainly of fish, which they catch with their sharp bills after expertly diving and pursuing prey underwater. However, they are opportunistic feeders and will also consume mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and occasionally small amounts of aquatic vegetation when available.

Despite their wide distribution and once abundant numbers, Arctic Loon populations are facing pressures from various environmental threats. Fishing nets pose a significant danger, as loons can become entangled and drown. Oil spills can damage their waterproof plumage, leading to hypothermia and death. Acidification and heavy metal pollution in water bodies affect their food sources and can lead to toxic accumulation in the birds themselves.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Albania
2018
Non-Breeding
Algeria
2018
Vagrant
Armenia
2018
Vagrant
Austria
2018
Non-Breeding
Azerbaijan
2018
Non-Breeding
Belarus
2018
Belgium
2018
Non-Breeding
Bosnia And Herz.
2018
Bulgaria
2018
Non-Breeding
China
2018
Croatia
2018
Non-Breeding
Czechia
2018
Non-Breeding
Denmark
2018
Estonia
2018
Faroe Islands
2018
Vagrant
Finland
2018
France
2018
Georgia
2018
Non-Breeding
Germany
2018
Gibraltar
2018
Vagrant
Greece
2018
Non-Breeding
Hungary
2018
Non-Breeding
India
2018
Iran
2018
Non-Breeding
Ireland
2018
Non-Breeding
Israel
2018
Vagrant
Italy
2018
Non-Breeding
Japan
2018
Jordan
2018
Vagrant
Kazakhstan
2018
Breeding
Korea
2018
Kyrgyzstan
2018
Latvia
2018
Lithuania
2018
Luxembourg
2018
Vagrant
Mexico
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Moldova
2018
Monaco
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Mongolia
2018
Breeding
Montenegro
2018
Non-Breeding
Morocco
2018
Vagrant
Netherlands
2018
Non-Breeding
North Korea
2018
North Macedonia
2018
Non-Breeding
Norway
2018
Poland
2018
Portugal
2018
Vagrant
Romania
2018
Russia
2018
Breeding: Eastern Asian Russia
Serbia
2018
Non-Breeding
Slovakia
2018
Non-Breeding
Slovenia
2018
Non-Breeding
Spain
2018
Non-Breeding
Spain
2018
Vagrant: Canary Is.
Svalbard
2018
Breeding
Sweden
2018
Switzerland
2018
Non-Breeding
Taiwan
2018
Turkey
2018
Non-Breeding
Turkmenistan
2018
Breeding
Ukraine
2018
United Kingdom
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No