Red Throated Diver

Gavia stellata, the red-throated diver (Europe), is also known as red-throated loon (North America), Qarsaaq (Greenlandic), Lomur (Icelandic), and Smalom (Norwegian). It is the smallest, most sleek diver, conspicuous because the upward slant of the lower mandible gives the impression of a slender upturned bill. Outside the breeding season, the birds are dullish brown above speckled light, but the summer garb is finely marked on the upper parts of the back, the rear neck and nape striped black and white, with a pale gray head and dramatic red bib that extends almost to the waterline. Red-throated divers nest generally on fresh waters (even small water bodies) north of 50° N in Europe, Asia, and North America, penetrating far into the Arctic in Svalbard and northern Greenland. The species is a solitary nester, rarely forming loose associations by virtue of food resources. The nest is a modest heap of vegetation very close to the waters' edge. Although clutches of 1-3 have been reported, the clutch size is invariably 2. Incubation takes almost 4 weeks and the dark brown young take almost 5 weeks to fledge. Adults may feed on the nesting lake, but very frequently commute long distances to larger prey-rich waters or even shallow marine waters to feed and catch food for the young. The species reaches sexual maturity at 2 or 3 years of age, but individuals have been known to live for over 23 years in the wild. The species is highly migratory, moving well south of the breeding range after fledging of young, and may aggregate in particular molting areas before moving to ultimate wintering quarters. In winter, the species can be found along inshore marine waters, often along sheltered coasts around northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but also in the Great Lakes, Black, Caspian, and Mediterranean seas. As with the larger species, parts of the red-throated diver skin were prized as clothing by northern peoples, and the hood of a mummified woman who died in c.1475 near Uummannaq, West Greenland, comprised two skins of this species.

Tony Fox

See also Seabirds

Further Reading

Bent, A.C., Life Histories of North American Diving Birds, New

York: Dover Publications, 1963 Cramp, S. & K.E.L. Simmons, The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977

Del Hoyo, J., A. Elliot & J. Sartagal, Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 1, Ostrich to Ducks, Madrid: Lynx, 1992 Dennis, R., Loons, Stillwater, Minnesota: Stillwater, 1993 Godfrey, W.E., The Birds of Canada (revised edition), Ottawa:

National Museums of Canada, 1986 Hart Hanse, J.P. and H.C. Gull0v, "The mummies from Qilakitsoq—eskimos in the 15th century." Meddelelser om Gr0nland, Man and Society, 12(1989): 1-199 Klein, T., Loon Magic, Minoqua, Wisconsin: Northwood Press, 1989

McIntyre, J.W., The Common Loon: Spirit of Northern Lakes, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988

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