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Pacific Loon

Silhouette LoonsLoons
Pacific LoonGavia pacifica
  • ORDER: Gaviiformes
  • FAMILY: Gaviidae

Basic Description

Breeding Pacific Loons are dapper birds with soft gray heads and intricate black-and-white patterning on the back and neck. They nest on tundra lakes, where their far-carrying wails lend a haunting sound to the Arctic landscape. This is the most abundant of North America’s five loon species, and in winter they gather in large numbers in coastal waters, bays, and estuaries. Spring migration can produce one of the continent’s great wildlife spectacles, in which thousands of Pacific Loons, along with Red-throated and Common Loons, pass by for hours.

More ID Info
image of range map for Pacific Loon
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Pacific Loons are relatively easy to find on their namesake ocean from late fall (October) through spring (May). Far fewer are present in the height of summer. They forage near the coast and also into large bays, occasionally along larger rivers and lakes near the coast. During spring migration, scan from a headland with binoculars or a spotting scope to spot large, loose flocks (often of several loon species) moving northward. In winter, migrants sometimes turn up far from the coast in the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and even the Atlantic coast.

Other Names

  • Colimbo del Pacífico (Spanish)
  • Plongeon du Pacifique (French)
  • Cool Facts