Loon

photo by Paul Tavares CC BY-NC

Common Loon

Listen for the haunting cry of the Loon on quiet, forested northern lakes in summer when they have a black head and throat, a long (3 ft), flat, black and white checkered body, with a white belly and striped collar. In winter, they're gray with a white throat and can be found on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Loons are also known as Great Northern Divers.

The monogamous birds build nests in hidden spots along a lake. They are strong swimmers and divers but awkward on land, only going ashore to mate and incubate eggs.

Could it be? Red-throated Loon and Pacific Loon are smaller with a narrower bill and no obvious collar.

Did you know? Loon parents and two chicks can eat half a ton of fish over a 15-week period.

See Also: Common Merganser, Goldeneye, Mallard, Western Grebe, Wood Duck