Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© John Mosesso Jr., NBII

Pacific Loon

Pacific Loon
Gavia pacifica
Duck-like Birds | Family: Loons, Gaviidae

An estimated 65% of the North American population of Pacific Loon breeds in the Canadian and Alaskan boreal forest. 

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Overview

Until recently thought to be a form of the Old World's Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica), the Pacific Loon is well named, for nearly all of these birds winter along the Pacific Coast of North America except for a few birds that delight birders by appearing at scattered locations along the Atlantic seaboard. In the east, it is the rarest and least known of the three loons found there. More social than other loons, this species frequently gathers in large flocks. On the northern breeding grounds adults often fly many miles between their nesting ponds and suitable feeding areas. It usually feeds closer to shore than other loons; its diet consists mainly of fish, but on the breeding grounds it also takes crustaceans.

 

Description

24" (61 cm). A small loon with straight, slender bill. In breeding plumage, head pale gray; neck and back black with white stripes; throat black with purple reflections. In winter plumage, blackish above, white below; often shows thin "chin strap."

Voice

A harsh kok-kok-kok-kok; wailing notes on breeding grounds.

Nesting

2 spotted olive-brown eggs, usually in a slight depression lined with aquatic vegetation (sometimes on bare ground) at edge of water.

Habitat

Breeds on lakes and ponds in tundra and northern forests; winters on coastal bays and inlets and on the ocean.

Range/Migration

Breeds from Alaska east to Hudson Bay, and south to northern British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. Winters chiefly along Pacific Coast; very rare in northeastern United States.