BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

Previous Page - Table of Contents - Next Page

LOONS: FAMILY GAVIIDÆ

Two species of Loon occur in New York and New England: the Red-throated Loon is a common migrant, and an uncommon winter visitant along the coast; the Loon is a summer resident of northern lakes, a migrant on other inland waters, and a migrant and winter visitant along the coast. When in adult plumage, the latter is easily distinguished; but in winter it can generally be told from its smaller relative only by its size. It is often difficult, also, to distinguish between Holboell's Grebe and the Red-throated Loon.

[Loons are also called divers.]

RED-THROATED LOON. Gavia lumme [stellata]
25.00 in.

Ad. in summer.— Head and neck lead-gray; back of the neck streaked with white; fore neck rich chestnut; upper parts speckled with white; breast and belly white. Ad. in winter and Im.— Upper parts, wings, and tail blackish-brown, speckled with white; throat, fore neck, and rest of under parts white.

The Red-throated Loon is a common migrant along the sea-coast in September and October, and again in April, and a not uncommon winter visitant. It occasionally occurs on large inland waters, as at Springfield, Mass., and on the Hudson. The adult breeding plumage with the red throat is very rare. Its feeding habits resemble those of the following species. The two species resemble each other so closely in winter that it is difficult to be sure of the smaller species unless there is something else to measure it by, or unless one gets near enough to see the white speckling on the back.


[COMMON] LOON. Gavia immer
32.00 in.

Ad. in summer.— Head and throat black; small white streaks on the throat and on the back of the neck; back black, spotted with white; breast and belly white. Ad. in winter and Im.— Upper parts brown, not spotted with white; throat, fore neck, and under parts white.

Nest, a rude structure of rushes, very near the water. Eggs, brown or greenish-brown, sparingly spotted with dark brown.

The Loon is a summer resident of northern New York and New England, occurring sparingly on the more remote bodies of water from the neighborhood of Mt. Monadnock northward, and commonly in the wilder portions of Maine and of the Adirondacks. It is a common winter visitant off the coast of New York and New England, and may occur as a migrant in May and September on any inland pond or lake. It may be found during the summer on the coast of Maine, though it does not breed there.

Its weird notes are a familiar sound on the northern lakes or harbors: one, loud and clear, with a rising inflection in the middle, falling at the end; the other, quavering, like unearthly laughter. On the water, the Loon rides either high, so that its white breast is visible at a great distance, or so low that only its neck appears above water. It dives with a forward spring, heels over head. When it starts to fly, it patters over the surface for a long distance before it gets under way, and when there is no breeze, it cannot rise at all; on land, it is almost helpless. It flies with neck stretched out in front, feet out behind, the whole figure forming a slight curve; the wing strokes are rapid, suggesting a duck. It enters the water with a splash.

The adult bird, with its contrast of black and white, is unmistakable. Immature birds and adults in winter resemble very closely the preceding species; their greater size, however, should distinguish them if the two species are together, or on a near view the absence of the spotted back is a good field-mark.


Previous Page - Table of Contents - Next Page