Gavia stellata   (Pontoppidan,   1763) (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyright: pbase

Size: The red-throated loon is the smallest, slightest of the divers. It stands at 53-69 cm., and its wingspan ranges from 106-116 cm. Males average slightly larger than females.

Color: During the breeding season, the upper body is a solid dark brown. The head and upper neck is grayish, with a large, glossy colored patch on the foreneck. It is white underneath and the tail is dark. In the winter, the face and foreneck are pure white, and the upper part is dark brownish and finely spotted with white. The iris is reddish, especially in adults during the breeding season.

The body is designed for swimming, with short, strong legs set far back on the body. The legs are perfect for moving through water, although this design makes walking on land difficult. The three front toes are webbed, and these loons have short, well-defined tails. They can vary their buoyancy in order to remain underwater, with the whole body submerged and only the eyes and bill visible above the surface.

Breeding season: Breeding starts in May in the south of the range, and in the north, timing depends on when spring thaw occurs. Nest- The nest is a small depression or a mound of plant matter built in shallow water up to 10 m from the shore or very near the water's edge on islets or small promontories. Nesting pairs will often re-use the same site in successive years. Eggs- 1-3 eggs may be laid, but there are almost always 2. Incubation is 27 days and is performed by both partners, with the female spending more time on the nest than the male

Synonym (s)

Common Name (s)
• Red-throated Diver (English)
• Red-throated Loon (English)
• Redthroated Diver (English)
Economic Importance and Threats
Importance:  Commercial
(Red-throated diver skins are sometimes used to make ceremonial dresses.)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Acidification of breeding waters, heavy metal pollution and the afforestation of peatland or moorland habitats. It is also sensitive to human disturbance from recreational activities and shoreline development (e.g. construction work near breeding lakes) and will desert sites if there is too much human activity. During the winter the species is highly vulnerable to coastal oil spills, especially in areas where large concentrations form (e.g. on rich fishing grounds), and is highly sensitive to disturbance from coastal wind farms (wind turbines) during this season. The species suffers mortality at sea and on large lakes due to entanglement and drowning in inshore fishing nets. )
Threats:  Natural threats
(When breeding the species is threatened by water level fluctuations, also this species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus.


Habitat:  Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  small or medium sized fish, including cod, herring, sprat, sculpins, and occasionally crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, fish spawn and insects
IUCN Status:  Least Concern



Literature Source(s)
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp Available at -
  • Manakadan R and Pittie A (2001) Standardized English names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent BUCEROS Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetland 6(1) 26pp Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Available at -
  • Myers, P; Espinosa, R; Parr, CS; Jones, T; Hammond, GS and Dewey, TA (2006) Animal diversity web Available at -
  • European environmental agency Available at -
  • Ali S and Ripley SD (1968) Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan Oxford university press 1 1-368pp Available at - NIO

Page last updated on:2012-09-17

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