Loon Rush

Red-throated Loon in winter plumage (Gavia stellata)

The sun had just risen over the hills in the east when I saw this loon cruising at high speed southward in the North Basin cove. It sounded off with some urgency, and at times paddled by kicking with both feet simultaneously, like a frog. A scaup female that had just emerged from a dive watched it go by, possibly wondering what the hurry was. In a bit, the loon seemed to forget why it was rushing and it slowed down and eventually came to a stop, without any reason this human could see. MATWOB (Mysterious Are The Ways Of Birds.)

I’m going out on a limb and calling this a Red-throated Loon in winter plumage. In winter they don’t show the red stroke on the throat. It might be a Pacific Loon or a Common Loon but it doesn’t have the patterns on its back that they have, and the bill is longer, more slender, and slightly upturned. If I’m wrong, well, it wouldn’t be the first time. Here’s a look at the same kind of bird in breeding plumage, photographed in August.

They breed in the far north, and migrate down here for the winter. They’re models of traditional family behavior. The Wikipedia writer says, “A monogamous species, red-throated loons form long-term pair bonds. Both members of the pair help to build the nest, incubate the eggs (generally two per clutch), and feed the hatched young.”

Red-throated Loon in winter plumage (Gavia stellata)

More about them: Wikipedia Audubon Cornell In Chavez Park

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