A Loon for Sure

While scanning the park edges for Burrowing Owls, I saw an intriguing white and grey bird in the water just north of the park.  I got lucky and captured a few seconds of video before it dove out of sight, to reappear who knows where and when.  On looking at the image, it’s clear to me that it’s a loon.  A nonbreeding loon, winter plumage, to be exact.

In breeding plumage, loons are a piece of cake to identify.  In winter plumage, one loon looks much like another.

I’m going to go out on a big limb here and say that this is a Red-throated Loon, and is not a Pacific Loon or a Common Loon.  It has too much white on its face and neck to be a Common Loon, and it even has more white in those areas than the Pacific Loon, although that’s marginal. What tips it for the red-throated is the way it carries its bill.  Except when it’s preening, obviously, it carries its bill slightly pointed upward, in a cheerful, optimistic posture.  The Pacific Loon, by contrast, keeps its bill level.  It’s only a few degrees difference, but it separates the species.  See the Cornell bird lab website.

Red-throated Loons are uncommon hereabouts, in my experience.  I saw another one in winter plumage here just about a year ago.  In August two years ago, I had the great good fortune to see one here in the North Basin in full breeding plumage.  It’s becoming an interesting winter, birdwise.


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