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Pacific Loon

Pacific Loon, Vancouver Island, BC
Pacific Loon, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo Copyright By Sean McCann

The lake, ponds, and ocean shores of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Region is home to the Pacific Loon. The Pacific Loon is perhaps the most abundant loon in North America. It closely resembles the arctic loon and until recently, the two loons were considered the same species.

The Pacific Loon has a grey head, with a vibrant purple throat. It also has a stout body, a long neck, and ruby red eyes. Their bill, tail, and rump are black and its underparts are mostly white. Its wings and upper back are checkered with black and white feathers that make four distinct patterns. In the winter, these feathers change colors and become blackish brown.

Pacific loon’s webbed feet help them power through the water, Pacific Loons are also exceptional divers. When on land, the Pacific Loon looks extremely awkward because its legs aren’t designed for walking. For this reason, the loon can only take off from water.

When attempting to fly, the Pacific Loon is not very graceful. In order to become airborne, the Pacific Loon needs about 30 to 50 m of taking off space. It usually skids across the water’s surface, furiously flapping its wings before it finally leaves the water.

This loon prefers to dwell in deep waters. Its habitat includes the ocean, bays, estuaries, channels, coves, and freshwater lakes. This loon feeds on a diet of Pacific herring, aquatic vegetation, insects, mollusks, and frogs. When alarmed, the loon uses its voice like a siren to make a loud piercing screech. It also prefers to dive rather than fly to safety.

As its name suggests, they spend most of their time nesting along the Pacific coast, ranging from Alaska all the way to Mexico. In the summer months, the loon returns to northern Canada and inland Alaska to breed on Arctic lakes. They have a wide distribution and can also be found nesting in Japan and other areas bordering the Pacific.

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