Red-throated Diver

name = Red-throated Diver
status = LC
status_system = iucn3.1
status_ref = [IUCN2006|assessors=BirdLife International|year=2004|id=49671|title=Gavia stellata|downloaded=2006-05-09]

image_width = 240 px
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Gaviiformes
familia = Gaviidae
genus = "Gavia"
species = "G. stellata"
binomial = "Gavia stellata"
binomial_authority = (Pontoppidan, 1763)

range_map_width = 240px
range_map_caption = Distribution of "G. stellata". Green = breeding range Yellow = winter range
synonyms ="Gavia lumme"

The Red-throated Diver ("Gavia stellata"), known in North America as the Red-throated Loon, is the smallest and most widely distributed member of the loon or diver family.

Taxonomy and etymology

First described by Danish naturalist Erik Pontoppidan in 1763, the Red-throated Diver is a monotypic species, with no distinctive subspecies despite its large Holarctic range. Its relationship to the four other diver species is complex; though all belong to the genus "Gavia", it differs more than any of the others in terms of morphology, behaviour, ecology and breeding biology.

The genus name "Gavia" comes from the Latin for "sea mew", as used by ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder.cite book |title=Diving Birds of North America |first=Paul A. |last=Johnsgard |url= |publisher=University of Nevada–Lincoln |year=1987] The specific epithet "stellata" is Latin for "set with stars" or "starry", and refers to the bird's speckled back in its non-breeding plumage. [cite book|author = Simpson DP| title = Cassell's Latin Dictionary | publisher = Cassell Ltd.| date = 1979|edition = 5|location = London|pages = 883| isbn=0-304-52257-0]


The Red-throated Diver is the smallest and lightest of the world's diver species, ranging from 55–67 cm (24–27 in) in length with a 91–110 cm (35.8–43.3 in) wingspan, [cite book |last=Svensson |first=Lars |coauthors=Peter Grant |title=Collins Bird Guide |publisher=HarperCollins |location=London |year=1999 |pages=12–13 |isbn=0-00-219728-6] and averaging convert|1.4|kg|lb in mass.cite book |last=Sibley |first=David |title=The Sibley Guide to Birds |publisher=Alfred A. Knopf |location=New York |year=2000 |page=23 |isbn=0-679-45122-6] Like all divers, it is long-bodied and short-necked, with its legs set far back on its body. [cite book |title=Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1, Ostrich to Ducks |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=1977 |isbn=0-19-857358-8] Compact and slender, it is the only diver with an all-dark back in breeding plumage. The sexes are similar, though males tend to be slightly larger and heavier than females.Harvnb|Carboneras|1992|p=162] In breeding plumage, the adult has a grey head and neck, red throat patch, white underparts and dark mantle. The non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin, foreneck and much of the face white, and considerable white speckling on the mantle. Its bill is thin, straight and sharp, and the bird often holds it at an uptilted angle. Though the colour of the bill changes from black in summer to pale grey in winter, the timing of the colour change does not necessarily correspond to that of the bird's overall plumage change. As an adaptation for diving its nostrils are narrow and elongated. Its iris is reddish.

In flight, the Red-throated Diver has a distinctive profile; its small feet do not project far past the end of its body, its head and neck droop below the horizontal (giving the flying bird a distinctly hunchbacked shape) and its thin wings are angled back. It has a quicker, deeper wingbeat than do other divers.


The Red-throated Diver has a drawn-out wailing cry, which has been transcribed as "aarOOoa, aarOOoa".

Habitat and distribution

The Red-throated Diver breeds in northern Eurasia and North America (generally north of 50 north latitude), and winters at sea, along inshore waters, and on large lakes as far south as the Mediterranean. It breeds on small freshwater ponds in tundra regions, but feeds largely in the sea even when breeding.


Because its feet are located so far back on its body—attaching very close to the posterior of the bird—the Red-throated Diver is not capable of walking on land; however, it can use its feet to shove itself forward on its breast. It is able to take off directly from land, the only species of diver that can.

The Red-throated Diver is a diurnal migrant, traveling singly or in loose groups, often high above the water. In eastern North America (and possibly elsewhere), it tends to migrate near the coast rather than farther offshore. [cite journal |title=Loon migrations off the coast of the northeastern United States |url= |journal=Wilson Bulletin |volume=95 |issue=1 |pages=125–132 |first=Kevin D. |last=Powers |coauthors=Jeffrey Cherry] It is a strong flier, and has been clocked at speeds between 75 and 78 kilometres per hour (47–49 mph). [cite journal |url= |journal=The Auk |volume=88 |issue=1 |pages=169 |title=Flight speed of Arctic and Red-throated Loons |first=Rolph A. |last=Davis |date=January 1971] Like all members of its family, the Red-throated Diver goes through a simultaneous wing moult, losing all its flight feathers at once and becoming flightless for a period of 3–4 weeks. However, unlike other divers—which undergo this moult in late winter—the Red-throated Diver loses its ability to fly sometime between early August and November. [cite journal |url= |journal=The Wilson Bulletin |volume=79 |issue=4 |pages=416–420 |first=Glen E. |last=Wolfenden |title=Selection for a Delayed Simultaneous Wing Molt in Loons (Gaviidae)]

Food and feeding

Like all members of its family, the Red-throated Diver is primarily a fish-eater, though it sometimes feeds on molluscs, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic invertebrates, insects, fish spawn or even plant material.Harvnb|Carboneras|1992|p=171] It seizes rather than spears its prey, which is generally captured underwater.citation |last1=Ehrlich |first1=Paul R. |first2=David S. |last2=Dobkin |first3=Darryl |last3=Wheye |first4=Stuart L. |last4=Pimm |title=The Birdwatcher's Handbook |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=1994 |page=2 |isbn=0-19-858407-5] Though it normally dives and swims using only its feet for propulsion, it may use its wings as well if it needs to turn or accelerate quickly. [cite journal |title=The Use of the Wings and Feet by Diving Birds |url= |journal=The Auk |volume=26 |issue=3 |pages=234–248 |first=Charles W. |last=Townsend |date=July 1909] Pursuit dives range between 2–9 m (6.5–30 ft) in depth, with an average underwater time of about a minute. The fish diet of the Red-throated Diver has led to several of its folknames, including "sprat borer" and "spratoon".cite book |last=Cocker |first=Mark |coauthor=Mabey, Richard |title=Birds Britannica |publisher=Chatto & Windus |location=London |isbn=0-701-16907-9 |page=3]


The Red-throated Diver is a monogamous species which forms long-term pair bonds. Both sexes build the nest, which is a shallow scrape (or occasionally a platform of mud and vegetation) lined with vegetation and sometimes a few feathers, and placed within a half-metre (18 in) of the edge of a small pond. The female lays 1–3 eggs (two is the norm) which are incubated for 24–29 days, primarily by the female. The eggs, which are greenish or olive-brownish spotted with black, measure 75 x 46 millimetres (3.0 X 1.8 in) and have a mass of convert|83|g|oz, of which 8 percent is shell. Incubation is begun as soon as the first egg is laid, so they hatch asynchronously. The young birds are precocial upon hatching: downy and mobile with open eyes; both parents feed them (small aquatic invertebrates initially, then small fish) for 38–48 days. Parents will perform distraction displays to lure predators away from the nest and young. Authorities disagree as to whether adults carry young on their backs while swimming with some maintaining that they do and others the opposite.cite web |url= |title=All About Birds: Red-throated Loon |publisher=Cornell Lab of Ornithology |accessdate=2008-06-30]

Conservation status and threats

Though the Red-throated Diver is not a globally threatened species, as it has a large global population and a significant global range, there are populations which appear to be declining. Numbers counted in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys in Alaska show a 53 percent population decline between 1971 and 1993, for example, [citation |last1=Groves |first1=Deborah J. |last2=Conant |first2=Bruce |last3=King |first3=Rodney J. |last4=Hodges |first4=John I. |last5=King |first5=James G. |title=Status and trends of loon populations summering in Alaska, 1971–1993 |journal=The Condor |volume=98 |number=2 |pages=189–195 |url=] and counts have dropped in continental Europe as well. In Scotland, on the other hand, the population has increased by some 16 percent over the past 12 years, according to surveys done by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Scottish Natural Heritage.cite web |url= |title=Rise in divers mystifies experts |publisher=BBC News |accessdate=2007-09-07]

The Red-throated Diver is one of the species to which the "Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds" (AEWA) applies; [cite web |url= |title=Waterbird species to which the Agreement applies |publisher=Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds |accessdate=2008-06-29] in the New World, it is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. [cite web |url= |title=Birds Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act |publisher=US Fish and Wildlife Service |accessdate=2008-06-29] Oil spills, habitat degradation, and fishing nets are among the main threats this species faces. In addition, high levels of mercury in the environment have led to reproductive failures in some areas, including parts of Sweden. [cite journal |url= |title=Levels of mercury in eggs of red-throated diver Gavia stellata and black-throated diver G. arctica in southwest Sweden |journal=Ornis Svecica |volume=2 |issue=1 |date=1992 |pages=29–36 |first=M.O.G. |last=Eriksson |coauthors=Johansson, I. & Ahlgren, C.G. |format=Abstract]

In human culture

As recently as the 1800s, the Red-throated Diver was thought to be a foreteller of storms; according to the conventional wisdom of the time, birds flying inland or giving short cries predicted good weather, while those flying out to sea or giving long, wailing cries predicted rain.cite web |url= |publisher=British Trust for Ornithology |title=Red-throated Diver |accessdate=2008-06-27] In the Orkney and Shetland islands of Scotland, the species is still known as the "rain goose" in deference to its supposed weather-predicting capabilities.

Many other folk names exist as well, among them cape drake, cape race, little loon, pegging-owl loon, pepper-shinned loon, scape-grace, and sprat loon.





External links

* [ Red-throated Diver photos] on Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences's Visual Resources for Ornithology website
* [ Red-throated Diver videos] on Handbook of Birds of the World's Internet Bird Collection
* [ USGS - Red-throated Loon]
* [ - - Red-throated Loon]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Red-throated Diver — rudakaklis naras statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Gavia stellata angl. Red throated Diver vok. Sterntaucher …   Paukščių anatomijos terminai

  • red-throated diver — rudakaklis naras statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Gavia stellata angl. red throated diver vok. Sterntaucher, m rus. краснозобая гагара, f pranc. plongeon catmarin, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – narai …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • red-throated diver — noun Gavia stellata, the smallest member of the loon or diver family, breeding in northern Eurasia and Arctic Canada, with grey head, red throat, white underparts and dark mantle. Syn: red throated loon …   Wiktionary

  • red-throated diver — noun see red throated loon …   Useful english dictionary

  • Red-throated — may refer to:* Red throated Ant Tanager, medium sized passerine bird * Red throated Diver, the smallest member of the loon or diver family * Red throated Lorikeet, critically endangered lorikeet endemic to Fiji * Red throated Pipit, small… …   Wikipedia

  • red-throated loon — noun The red throated diver …   Wiktionary

  • red-throated loon — noun or red throated diver ˈ ̷ ̷ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ : a small loon (Gavia stellata) with a thin and uptilted bill and a reddish throat patch …   Useful english dictionary

  • Black-throated Diver — Taxobox name = Black throated Diver status = LC status system = iucn3.1 status ref = [IUCN2006|assessors=BirdLife International|year=2004|id=49672|title=Gavia arctica|downloaded=2006 05 09] image width = 240px regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata… …   Wikipedia

  • red-throat — noun shortened term for the red throated diver …   Wiktionary

  • Black-throated Loon — Conservation status Least Concern ( …   Wikipedia

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