Photo Credit: Glen Tepke

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Gavia pacifica

OTHER NAMES: Pacific Diver
STATUS: Rare in late fall, winter, and spring in Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast regions. Occasional in Mountain region. 
DESCRIPTION: The Pacific loon is a medium sized member of the family Gaviidae. They have a gray head, black throat, white under wings and belly with a chequered black and white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with white chin and foreneck. Lack of a white flank patch distinguishes it from otherwise very similar black-throated loon. Their bill is dagger shaped. They fly with their neck extended and are very clumsy on land and in air but graceful in the water.
DISTRIBUTION: Found wintering mainly on the Pacific coast this loon ranges from the U.S.A. to China, Japan, North and South Korea and Mexico. They have been found in Greenland, Europe and Great Britain.
HABITAT: Pacific loons prefer open oceans and large lakes. They typically nest in marginal water areas on floating masses of vegetation referred to as “float-on” and grasses.
FEEDING HABITS: Like many other divers, Pacific loons feed primarily on fish. Their air sacs allow them to dive to great depths and stay submerged for several minutes.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Monogamous as long as the relationship produces young. Only the female ventures out of the water to nest. Typically two eggs are produced, one a few weeks before the other. The older egg is also the first to hatch and the older offspring takes on a dominant role in feeding. The age discrepancy sometimes results in the death of the second hatchling. Young are totally dependant on parents for first eight weeks and ride on their backs to reduce predation. Males often compete for females in mortal combat with dagger shaped bill. Loons are aesthetically pleasing with a haunting call.
AUTHOR: Stuart Goldsby Regional Hunter Education Coordinator, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries