Loon or Diver

In Flight, Diving and on the Water

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 and the Appearance of these Birds


Despite their relatively short wings Loons or Divers are good fliers and can fly at good speed and over large distances. Their flight is characterized by an outstretched neck, with the head being kept somewhat lower than the body, and the feet pointing to the rear over the tail.   Loons nearly always both take off from and land on the water.  For the actual take-off they need a long approach, often of some hundreds of meters.  The initial attempt at taking off frequently fails, the Loon having in these cases to come back and start another attempt.   Once they have taken to the wing their flight is powerful and they can attain great heights.  On occasion they will rush downward from the sky with a velocity that must be seen to be appreciated, and this sudden descent is accompanied by a noise for which those who have witnessed it will agree in thinking that thundering is too weak an epithet.

Landing is achieved by coming in feet first and skidding on the surface, while the wings are opened to reduce speed.  Only the small Red-throated Loon is able to take off from and land on the dry ground.

The Water and Diving

The Diver or Loon has a streamlined body, excellently adapted to life on water. The short legs are set right at the back at the body and carry their strong webbed feet, which perfect their propulsion in and under water.

Loons are are superb divers (hence their alternative name), who can go to depths of up to 75 meters below the surface and can remain under water for up to eight minutes. Usually, however, their diving depth is to only two to ten meters, and they only rarely stay below the surface for over one minute.  The method of diving  down in the water shows hadly any noticeable effort and is carried out with minimal splashing.  Under water they use the feet as propulsion - the wings are used underwater only rarely to help their movement.  As well as using diving as a way of obtaining food (primarily fish), if a Loon is scared it will often try to effect its escape by diving.

Their exit from the water is gradual, rather than the the style of almost jumping which is typical of the Cormorant and the Grebe.  On dry land, Loons move very clumsily. They can not stand upright for a for long time, but must support themselves with their chest whilst standing. The legs do not make a waddling movement possible, but instead they make short, frog-like jumps, which are take a lot of energy and the birds therefore usually only travel small distances on land.   They can also sometimes slide on their on the chest pushing themselves with their legs.  In spite of the great difficulty of movement, if they come disturbed, they can move on land for considerable distances if they feel that they are in danger.

They sleep in the water, preferring to take these rests away from the land in deeper waters where they will be relatively safer. While they sleep, they do not hold their head under a wing, but intead stretch their neck out along their back.

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