About animals

White-headed loon - description, habitat, interesting facts


Other names: white loon.

Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 174470
Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF): .. | Birdlife International (BLI): ..
Security status (IUCN): (least threatened) Least Concern (LC) ...

List of SPECIES of the species White-bellied LoonGavia adamsii (Gray, GR, 1859)
According to the IOC World Bird Names checklist, version 9.2 (June 2019) by Frank Gill & David Donsker

It does not form subspecies.



The size of a large goose, the physique is massive. It differs from other loons in all outfits by a large yellowish-white beak. In mating attire, unlike black throat, white-necked and red-throated loons, it has a black head color, with a green and purple tint, white spots with black stripes on the neck. On the back and wings from above, there are complex white spots, almost like black throat and white-necked loons. Weight 4.0-6.4 kg, length 75-100, wing 36.4-40.5, wingspan 135-155 cm.

At mating time, it makes loud, clean and beautiful sounds, similar in rhythm to nervous laughter or horse neighing, as well as a loud and high intermittent groan. "Neighing" publishes in flight. Anxious sounds - like other loons, but lower. The "moans" are more like a hoarse howl.


A distinctive feature of white-billed loons is a sharp beak slightly raised to the top. The head and back of these birds are black, with large white spots. The belly is white. On the neck and wings there are characteristic white stripes that distinguish them from other species.

White-billed loons are also the largest representatives of their detachment - their body weight varies on average from 4 to 6.5 kilograms, and the length can reach 70 centimeters. The sizes of these birds can be compared with the sizes of domestic ducks.

Due to the fact that birds live in the cold northern waters, their plumage is distinguished by its density and density. And on their feet they have membranes that allow you to dive to a depth of 20 meters and swim perfectly.

However, the loons are not at all adapted to life on land. They start flying with water, and also land in water. The fact is that their paws are arranged in such a way that they can break due to landing on land.


Birds live in small flocks, each of which numbers from 3 to 6 individuals. The loon is called monogamous birds. For life they find only one partner, with which they take out the chicks and fly from place to place. Their puberty occurs relatively late - by about 3 years.

Offspring are usually hatched in late July or early August. In most cases, there are only two eggs in a clutch. By coloring, the eggs are brown, black speckled, rather large and slightly oblong. The hatching period lasts an average of 30 days. During this time, the male and female take turns hatching offspring and do not leave the nest. Seeing the danger nearby, the bird descends from the nest into the water and begins to scream and beat its wings on the water to attract the attention of the predator to itself, and not to the eggs lying in the nest.

Chicks are particularly independent: they can leave the nest the very next day after their appearance, they can immediately swim. They are covered with a thick downy layer of dark gray. The parents feed the first 2 weeks of life, and then the chicks begin to feed on their own. By 8 weeks of life, the chicks learn to fly, and by 11 weeks they are already becoming completely independent of their parents.

The character of the white-headed loon

The loons are distinguished by their caution, but do not have special maneuverability, so in case of danger they dive under the water, where they can be up to two minutes.

In preparation for the flight, the loons emit a characteristic cry. And when a predator approaches, they start screaming, but in nature the loons have few “enemies”, so birds rarely cry. Natural danger to birds is created by foxes, gulls, arctic foxes and skuas.

The life of a bird lasts up to 20 years and all this time they are very constant in choosing a place of residence: even during flights, the loons tend to the same reservoirs.

Interesting Facts

  • White-billed loon is listed in the Red Book. Earlier hunting for this bird was very common. Ladies hats were made from their skins; there was even a fishing for loon, which was called "bird fur." Over time, the popularity of products made from their fur and feathers has passed, however, the population of these birds has suffered greatly as a result of such interventions. Now the white-headed loon is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation.
  • Loon scream. The shout of the loon can be compared to the howl of some wild beast. Moreover, males cry most often, females make loud noises only during the mating season.
  • The loons cannot get along with a person. The loon cannot be tamed. Having met a person near his nest, a bird can leave him forever, even if there is a laying of her eggs in it. Because of this feature, the existence of bird farms on which the loon is bred is not possible.
  • Lifestyle & Habitat

    The loons spend most of their lives on the water. They nest in quiet ponds. They especially like wetlands where there are practically no people. In winter, the lakes are covered with a thick crust of ice, and their banks are covered with snow.

    The loons are not adapted to such harsh conditions, so they are forced to spend the winter in the southern latitudes. They settle where the seas and oceans do not freeze, settling on rocky shores. At this time of year, birds gather in common flocks and furrow coastal waters.

    In winter, it is difficult to recognize the loon on the sea: it does not scream and it has a completely different plumage - gray and unremarkable. Even helmsman feathers fall out, and they cannot fly for about a month. Adults fly every year. Young loons remain at sea for another two to three years before returning to where they were born.

    In April, snowmelt begins on the northern lakes. Far in the south, the loons are preparing for departure. By this time they are dressing in a summer outfit. Some mysterious inner feeling tells them that the distant northern lakes are ready to accept them.

    Traveling north takes several days, sometimes weeks. Along the way, they stop at ponds to relax and fish. For example, many lakes with cold and clear water are scattered throughout the North American continent.

    It is believed that they formed after the retreat of the glacier in one of the ice ages. Researchers suggest that the loons followed the retreating glacier to the north, finding their livelihood in these reservoirs. Since then, they have hibernated on the ocean, and during the breeding season they return to inland lakes.

    Now people continue to push them further north. Every year, the loons return to their native lakes to breed chicks. They mistakenly find their former place. The loons are very punctual: they always arrive five days after all the ice has melted, often on the same day.

    Usually, males are the first to appear in a pond. It is very important for them to arrive early, take a place for a nest and territory for fishing. They must not lose a minute to raise offspring. Before the snow and ice drive them south again, they have a little over seven months.

    Rivals resolve disputes over territorial claims. Birds express aggression, becoming in a fighting stance and putting forward its beak. Males emit special cries, fighting for territory.

    The area of ​​the loons can be limited to a small bay about ten meters, and can be a whole lake a hundred and two hundred meters long. The loons need convenient places for nests, clean running water and a hidden "playground" for the eyes.

    When the chicks grow up and become independent, the behavior of the parents changes. At a strictly defined time, they leave their territory or even fly to another reservoir to communicate with other birds.

    At first, unfamiliar loons show a certain aggression towards each other. Then, having met, they change the tone of the voice from hostile to gentle, and the whole company is spinning in dance. Sometimes the loon, which owns the place of general gathering, makes a "lap of honor".

    Such “meetings” take place at the end of summer and continue in September, becoming more numerous. It is not known exactly what purpose they serve. Unlike geese and other migratory birds, the loons do not travel south in a flock.

    They prefer to fly alone, in pairs or rarely in small groups. The loons are devoted to their partner all their lives. Only if one of the "spouses" dies, the bird is forced to again seek a mate.

    Interesting detail: on some lakes, the loons do not pollute the water with their stool. Young birds immediately learn to go to the toilet in a specific place on the shore. Excretions of the loons are very rich in minerals and salts. When they dry, they become a source of salts for insects.


    Despite their good-natured appearance, the loons are mainly birds of prey. Their favorite treat is a small fish. Behind it, the loons are able to dive to a depth of more than 50 meters. Birds swim so quickly and skillfully under water that brisk fish cannot evade them.

    In addition to the pursuit, the loon has another way of catching fish: pulling them out of shelters at the bottom. The daily diet of feathered divers can also include crustaceans, shrimp, shellfish, worms and other small inhabitants of the vast expanses of water.

    For chicks in the first days of life, the main food becomes insect larvae, leeches and fry. Growing up, young loons are moving to a larger fish. At what birds prefer fish individuals having a narrow, oblong shape. Such fish are easier to swallow whole.

    Occasionally, the loons consume algae, but these waterfowl cannot stay on plant feed for a long time. For active life they need the nutrients contained in food of animal origin.

    In this regard, if the loons find it difficult to get food on the pond, they fly to another or move to a more "fishy" marine area. It is estimated that over the summer, a pair of adult loons with two chicks catches up to 500 kg of fish.

    Life span

    The loons can live for more than 20 years. The long-lived bird monitored did not survive only a few months to 28 years. However, there are many reasons that shorten the life span of birds.

    Every year, many loons die, swallowing hooks and sinkers of lead or entangled in fishing nets. Oxidation of lakes ensures that hundreds of northern lakes are left without fish, and therefore without food for loons.

    If the loon does not have time to fly away before the lake is covered with ice, it can freeze or become a prey of a predator. In some water bodies, enthusiasts specifically inspect the area to help the remaining birds get out of the ice trap. Despite various negative factors, the loon population is still quite large.