Birds of Chignik Lake: Red-throated Loon

Fine and far off. In fly-fishing, the phrase refers to light tippets and long casts to wary trout. Here it refers to my lone Red-throated Loon sighting on Chignik Lake. It’s difficult to see the eponymous star-like speckling on its back in this photo, but a fine bill angled up slightly, a face showing more white than in other loons, and a smaller, more rounded overall profile add up to Red-throated. A pair of male Red-breasted Mergansers nap to the right on an icy Chignik Lake. (April 1, 2017)

Although Narver regularly encountered Red-throated Loons during his summertime observations in the early 1960’s, I recorded only one specimen during my three years at The Lake. This could reflect that in summertime Red-throateds mainly reside further up the watershed at Black Lake – and possibly breed there -, or it could indicate that in recent years Common Loons have supplanted their smaller cousins in the Chignik Drainage. Except for the breeding season, Red-throated Loons show a decided preference for salt water, so from fall through early spring Chignik Lagoon and nearby ocean waters – areas beyond the scope of this study – might be good places to check for them.

Red-throated in breeding plumage: Photo by David Karnå / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Red-throated Loon Range Map: with permission from Birds of North America

Red-throated Loon – Gavia stellata
Order: Gaviiformes
Gavia: sea mew
stellata: set with stars

Status at Chignik Lake 2016-19: Rare

Status on other relevant checklists:

David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63:
Common on Black Lake; Occasional on Chignik Lake

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010:
Uncommon in Spring and Summer; Rare in Fall and Winter

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Bird List: Presence Documented

Swallow Silhouette

Previous Article: Loons of Chignik Lake

Next Article: Pacific Loons

*For a clickable list of bird species and additional information about this project, click here: Birds of Chignik Lake

© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.



4 thoughts on “Birds of Chignik Lake: Red-throated Loon

  1. Last fall, in Nikiski, I was positive I saw one of these lovelies on the lake. I was walking past the window and saw a bright white topped loon like figure. Then, I stopped and thought ‘What was that??’ I grabbed my glasses, but it was gone! I then noticed ducks at the far end scurrying to the edge (the lake isn’t that large) and this loon popped up, it still looked different than the normal ones we see. I ran down to the lake and tried to get a photo. The only one I got seemed to have a blur of red in the white. When it left, it lifted off different, too. All in all, I can only imagine it was one of these. But, I don’t know if I’m correct!!!

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