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Red-throated Loon


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The smallest of the loons, the Red-throated Loon breeds at high latitudes in North America and Eurasia. It is distinctive among loons not only in size, but also in behavior, vocalizations, locomotion, and other aspects of life history.

Birds of North America Online
BNA ML combo package

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
20.9–27.2 in
53–69 cm
39.4–47.2 in
100–120 cm
35.3–95.2 oz
1000–2700 g
Other Names
  • Red-throated Diver (British)
  • Plongeon catmarin (French)
  • (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Red-throated Loon, unlike other loons, does not need to patter on the water's surface on a long takeoff, but rather can take flight directly from land if necessary.
  • The Red-throated Loon is the only loon that regularly forages far from its breeding territory, returning from distant lakes or the sea with fish for the young.
  • Unlike other loons, the Red-throated Loon does not carry its young on its back.



Breeds in low tundra wetlands, bogs, and ponds in forests. In migration, flocks stage on large lakes. Winters in relatively shallow, sheltered marine habitat.



Marine and freshwater fish.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–3 eggs
Egg Description
Elongated, with variable color ranging from brown to olive, with blotches or speckles.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and active; capable of swimming within 12 to 24 hours.
Nest Description

Two nest types. Some nests are made of grass and moss and placed on low shorelines; some are actually in shallow water, built up with aquatic vegetation.

Nest Placement



Surface Dive

In one territorial display, nicknamed the "penguin posture," an individual or pair of Red-throated Loons extend their bodies and necks vertically, and bow their heads and bills downward, while they tread water with their feet. One threat display involves a dive with strong kicks that send up sprays of water.Pursues fish under water, grabs with bill.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Oil spills, degradation of habitat, and entanglement in fishing nets all pose threats to the Red-throated Loon. Declines noted in Europe, Alaska, and other parts of North America; reasons not well understood. North American populations are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.


  • Barr, J. F., C. Eberl, and J. W. McIntyre. 2000. Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata). In The Birds of North America, No. 513 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Red-throated Loon Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings