Seabirds, Pacific Northwest
The Red Throated Loon is a very common visitor to the Pacific Northwest Coast. They only reach up to 65 cm long and are the smallest species of all known Loon species in the wild. They are very good at flying with speeds of up to almost 80 km per hour and they can fly for a very long period of time. They are very beautiful.
They have a gray coloring on top and white on the bottom of the body. As you can guess from the name, they have also have a reddish patch on the throat. However, it isn’t present all year long, but only during mating. They are often mistaken for other types of loons when that coloration is missing. Their small size should help you identify them though.
The Red Throated Loon is found throughout Northern America. They live mainly along the water and will very seldom be seen on land. They migrate each year to the north to nest in the spring. They tend to stay very close to the shoreline as they migrate.
The feet on the Red Throated Loon are located very far back so they have a difficult time walking on land. They do cover ground though after breeding to get to the water by pushing with their feet while sliding on their breast. They are able to take flight from land though when startled, they are the only species of Loon that is able to do this.
They go through a molting period when they can’t fly. This molt is in the late summer months.
They use various forms of vocalization to communicate. They will send out sounds to identify habitat as they approach the water. They give warning calls if they are disturbed to ward off people and predators. They will also offer a low pitch warbling sound for calling mates or to interact with their young.
They consume a variety of foods including fish and crustaceans. The Red Throated Loon prefers fish though and that is the item they will always eat if it is there. They will turn to insects, plants, and other debris when necessary though in order to get enough food to eat.
They often dive to get fish right out of the water. They have an amazing vision that allows them to see fish from a very far distance. They can dive up to 25 meters below the surface of the water. They are able to stay under the water for up to 1 minute at a time.
Breeding takes place mainly in the Arctic region. The pairs are very careful about determining who they will mate with. They often keep the same mate for several years but they can change who they mate with. Both parents will guard the eggs and help to ensure that they are able to mature. The female lays two eggs and incubates them for about 26 days.
When the young arrive the female stays with them while the male brings back food for all of them.