Loon or Diver

Food, Habitat and Migration

The Loon or Diver and the Appearance of these Birds

The Loon or Diver in Flight, on the Water and Diving

Food, Habitat and Migration of the Loon or Diver

Call Sound and Breeding of the Loon or Diver

Prehistoric species of Loon or Diver and Human Effects on the Bird

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Continued from The Loon or Diver in Flight, Diving and on the Water


Loons or Divers eat small or medium sized fish, which they capture and usually even swallow under water. Usually it is only rare that different types of food provide supplementary nutrition.  This can be frogs, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, or water insects. There are however cases, in which Loons breed at lakes which are completely devoid of fish-free, and then occasionally their diet completely changes over to molluscs or insects.

Their prey is located by sight and is for this reason that they prefer to hunt in clear waters.  For the same reason they do not hunt at night.  All their prey must be alive at the time of being caught.  They do not seem to like eating dead animals, which makes it slightly difficult to keep loons in captivity, especially where they are in rehabilitation centres after being found wounded or sick.

Loons have a very flexible esophagus, which makes it possible for them to swallow relatively large prey. The Common Loon can swallow heavy trout or even flounders up to 45 centimeters in length and a kilogram in weight. Swallowing large prey animals can, however, fail in very rare cases, and Loons have been found who have suffocated on large fish.

Statistics carried out have estimated a consumption of fish equal to approximately one ton over the breeding season (which lasts around 120 days) for one pair of loons with two chicks. Other estimates say about one ton over a full year.  Whichever it may be, this is a strong demand for food due to their remarkable expenditure of energy, which is increased by the aquatic and cold habitat in which they live.


Loons or Divers inhabit northern areas comprising the tundra and taiga habitats of Cananda, Greenland, Russa, Scandinavia and Greenland.  Two species, these being the Black-throated Diver (also known as the Arctic Loon) and the Red-throated Diver (Red-throated Loon) breed in Northern Europe.  The Southernmost areas for these two species to breed is in the North of Ireland, Northern Scotland as well as the South of Sweden and Norway.   The Common Loon (known also as the Great Northern Diver) breeds in North America in particular, as well as in Iceland and Greenland.  The Yellow Billed Loon (also known as the White Billed Diver) inhabits the Northeast of Siberia and North America.

Loons or Divers spend their entire life on, or very close to, the water.  The breeding areas of the larger species are in deep lakes of the tundras and boreal zones.  A quiet habitat free of disturbance is preferred.  The Red-throated Loon, being the smallest of the 5 species, also breeds in small lakes and ponds. If the possibility exists, small islands within the lakes are preferred as nesting places. In rare cases, Red-throated Loons and yellow billed Loons alse breed also in protected sea bays or river deltas.

Loon Migration

In winter the Loons or Divers migrate to the coasts of Europe, Asia and North America.  The European populations they winter around the Baltic Sea as well as the northern Mediterranean. In North America they fly southward to Northern and Florida.  In Asia they inhabit the Chinese coast down to Hainan.

The Greenland and Icelandic populations of the the Common Loon can be observed in the Winter on European coasts.  More populous however are Red-throated Loons and Arctic Loons and who also migrate in the winter to Central European coasts. Particularly on the autumn stretch of their migration both Arctic Loons and Red throated Loons rest either individually or in small flocks deep inland in Central Europe, usually on large lakes.  In particular the North Siberian populations of the Arctic Loon exhibit thereby a particularly interesting migration course behavior. In the autumn they move to the black sea, in spring their migrations take them first to the Baltic Sea and from there out to the white sea. Such a migration route, which the birds use in the other direction on their return journeys to the breeding areas in the autumn, is called loop migration and is, so far as is known, only used be a few types of bird.
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