Family Loons/Divers (Gaviidae)

Least Concern

Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica)


French: Plongeon arctique German: Prachttaucher Spanish: Colimbo ártico
Other common names: Black-throated Diver, Black-throated Loon

Colymbus arcticus


, 1758,



Previously lumped with G. pacifica; differs in slightly larger size, more angular head, thicker bill, broader white stripes on neck sides, and darker crown (all in summer), and is paler above with broader “choker” in winter, and (usually) shows a white flank patch at all seasons#R.. Mixed pairings with G. immer, and possible hybrids, occasionally observed#R. Proposed race suschkini (N & NC Asia) included in nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. a. arctica (Linnaeus, 1758) – N Europe (N Scotland and Fennoscandia) E through N & NC Asia to R Lena and Transbaikalia; migrates to coasts of NW Europe, also to Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas.
  • G. a. viridigularis Dwight, 1918 – E Russia from R Lena and Transbaikalia E to Chukotka, Kamchatka and N Sakhalin, also extreme NW Alaska; migrates to NW Pacific coasts (mainly Kuril Is S to Korea and Yellow Sea).
  • Descriptive notes

    58–73 cm; 1300–3400 g; wingspan 110–130 cm. Nominate race in breeding plumage Incubating on nest in tundra has plain grey head and hindneck, blackish... read more


    During breeding, male gives loud, rhythmic, whistling song, “oooéé-cu-clooo... read more


    Breeds on fairly large, deep freshwater lakes, preferably with islets; more typically in taiga and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly fish, including gobies (Gobiidae), sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae), herring (Clupea), sprat (Sprattus sprattus), cod... read more


    Starts in April in S of range, dependent on spring thaw in N. Solitary. Nest a heap of plant matter placed near water’s edge. Clutch... read more


    Migratory and dispersive. Generally moves S and towards sea post-breeding, shunning ice-covered... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). World population probably large, in order of several million individuals, but generally decreasing throughout S of range. According... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carboneras, C. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).