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Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents Dig Imperial Beach "Bird of the Week" is known as the "Pacific Loon or Pacific Diver"

Aug 18, 2016 01:46PM ● By Paul Spear

Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the "Pacific Loon or Pacific Diver (Gavia pacifica)"

The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have background on the bird.

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link: 

Bryan Brillhart Photography

Pacific Loon or Pacific Diver (Gavia pacifica)

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is known as the Pacific Loon or Pacific Diver (Gavia pacifica), a medium-sized member of the loon, or diver, family. This loon is hardly "Pacific" in summer, since its breeding range extends across northern Canada as far east as the Hudson Bay and Baffin 

Island. However, the great majority of these birds head west to the Pacific Coast to spend the winter. They measure 58–74 cm (23–29 in) in length, 110–128 cm (43–50 in) in wingspan and weigh 1–2.5 kg (2.2–5.5 lb).They have a grey head, black throat, white underparts and checkered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin and foreneck being white. Its bill is grey or whitish and dagger-shaped. In all plumages, lack of a white flank patch distinguishes this species from the otherwise very similar black-throated diver/Arctic loon.

Habitat is on the ocean or on open water, and in summer, on tundra lakes. Breeding is mainly on lakes surrounded by tundra, but also on lakes within forested country, often overlapping with the Red-throated Loon, but requiring a larger and deeper body of water. In winter, they can be found mostly on the ocean, often farther from shore than the Red-throated or Common loons.

They forage by diving from the surface and swimming underwater, propelled mainly by feet. 

They may dip their head into the water repeatedly, looking for prey, before diving. Diet includes fish, crustaceans, and insects. Diet varies with place and season. Apparently, they eat mostly small fish when these are available, especially in winter and on the ocean. They also eat crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, and some plant material, especially during breeding season.

After mating, females lay 2, sometimes 1, rarely 3, brown, with blackish-brown spots eggs. Both sexes incubate, although the females do more for 23-25 days. Young leave their nest shortly after hatching, and return to the nest for resting and sleeping during first few days. Both parents feed young. Adults may fly several miles from the nesting territory to other waters to feed and to bring back food for their young. Age at first flight is probably 60-65 days. They produce only one brood per year.

Pacific loons may mate for life. Courtship displays include ritualized bill-dipping and splash-diving by both members of the pair. They are very aggressive in defense of their nesting territory, and have been seen to kill ducklings that strayed near their nest. Nest sites are almost always at the edge of water, on shore or on an island, and sometimes in shallow water. Nests, probably built by both sexes, are a heap of vegetation pulled up from around the nest site, sometimes mixed with mud or with a mud foundation. They may rarely build floating nests.

I spotted a Pacific loon on our beach near the Tijuana River mouth resting in the sand, and was able to approach him for photographing. You never know what you will see while walking along our beaches or in the Tijuana Estuary. Get out and take advantage of all Imperial Beach has to offer. Until next week, happy birding!


Bryan Brillhart


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