Nature Journal
with Photos

          
Common Loon Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
 
General Information
- Sexes similar
- Large diving bird with long body that rides low in the
   water
- Large bill is straight, tapers to a point, and is held
   horizontally
- Feet set far back on body, and trail behind body in
   flight
- Upperwings wholly dark in flight

Adult alternate
- Black bill
- Black head
- Black neck with white markings
- White chest and belly
- Black back with white checkering and spotting

Adult basic
- Pale gray bill
- Gray-brown cap, forehead, nape, hindneck and back
- White face, eye ring, chin, throat, foreneck and belly
- Jagged border between white foreneck and dark
   hindneck

Immature
- Like basic-plumaged adult but often with paler bill
   and white scalloping on back

Similar species
Cormorants have hooked bills. Western, Clark's and Red-necked Grebes have thinner bills marked with yellow and show white in the wings in flight.

Red-throated Loon has a thinner, upturned bill that it carries above horizontal. In basic and immature plumages its back is spangled with white spots and its head and neck are pale gray, with a straighter line of division with the white foreneck.

Pacific Loon has a shorter, thinner bill, a sharp line dividing the pale foreneck and dark hindneck and no white around the eye.

The rare Yellow-billed Loon is similar in all plumages, but has a bill that is beveled upwards at the tip and a blockier head, and is entirely yellow beyond the gonys. In basic and immature plumages, the head and hindneck are paler with a darker spot to the auriculars, and back has more pattern.
 
 
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