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

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*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.