Pacific LoonGavia pacifica

adult, breeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult, breeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult, breeding
Tom Vezo/VIREO
Pacific Loon



24" (61 cm). A small loon with straight, slender bill. In breeding plumage, head pale gray; neck and back black with white stripes; throat black with purple reflections. In winter plumage, blackish above, white below; often shows thin "chin strap."


A harsh kok-kok-kok-kok; wailing notes on breeding grounds.


growl duetting
female mournful cries


Breeds on lakes and ponds in tundra and northern forests; winters on coastal bays and inlets and on the ocean.


Breeds from Alaska east to Hudson Bay, and south to northern British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. Winters chiefly along Pacific Coast; very rare in northeastern United States.


Until recently thought to be a form of the Old World's Arctic Loon, the Pacific Loon is well named, for nearly all of these birds winter along the Pacific Coast. In the east, it is the rarest and least known of the three loons found there. More social than other loons, this species frequently gathers in large flocks. On the northern breeding grounds adults often fly many miles between their nesting ponds and suitable feeding areas. It usually feeds closer to shore than other loons; its diet consists mainly of fish, but on the breeding grounds it also takes crustaceans.


2 spotted olive-brown eggs, usually in a slight depression lined with aquatic vegetation (sometimes on bare ground) at edge of water.

Similar Species

adult, breeding

Yellow-billed Loon

33-38" (84-97 cm). Breeding and winter similar to those of Common Loon, but bill ivory-yellow and seemingly upturned. In winter plumage, has more white on face; typically shows dark spot behind eyes.

adult, breeding

Arctic Loon

23-28" (58-73 cm). W. 43-51" (110-130 cm). Highly similar to Pacific Loon; until recently, the two were considered a single species.

adult, breeding

Common Loon

28-36" (71-91 cm). A large, heavy-bodied loon with a thick, pointed, usually black or dark gray bill held horizontally.

adult, breeding

Red-throated Loon

24-27" (61-69 cm). A small loon seldom seen far from salt water. In breeding plumage, has gray head and neck, rusty throat, black back spotted with white.


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