Red-throated Loon  ( Plongeon catmarin )      This species is of special interest to Timiskaming birders.    All sightings should be documented and reported.

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Gavia stellata

Description:    Red-throated Loon in winter plumage
Photo Date:   December 15, 2010




Mike Leahy

General Notes

A rare migratory visitor to Timiskaming, the Red-throated Loon is most often observed here during fall migration. When this species is noticed here, it is often late migrants that have run into trouble from its inexperience with pavement, often mistaking roadways or parking lots as water surfaces.

This is our smallest loon species, and is the only loon able stand up and take flight with only a short take-off effort, making it the only loon that can take off from a solid surface like land or ice. As a result, it can nest and feed on smaller bodies of water than other loons.  It is a circumpolar species, breeding on small, shallow freshwater tundra ponds, usually in close proximity to the coast. While migrating, it shuns smaller water bodies and prefers marine habitat. In Ontario, apart from Hudson Bay and James Bay, it is generally observed almost exclusively on the Great Lakes.

The latin name stellata refers to the star-like white speckles on the back when in winter plumage. 

Abundance: Rare Earliest observed:  

Typical spring arrival:

Typical fall arrival:

Oct. 6
Breeding Status: Migrant Latest observed:  

Typical spring departure:

Typical fall departure:

Nov. 25

Documented Observations



November 5-29, 1959. One observed in Swastika by Fred Helleiner.

Early November, 1959. Approximately 50 birds were grounded on Highway 65 between Matachewan and Kenogami after a storm, reported by Fred Helleiner.  Apparently, the birds landed on the road mistakenly believing that it was water, and then were unable to take off again. Several were moved to a wide spot on the Blanche River at Swastika by staff of the Department of Lands and Forests (now the Ministry of Natural Resources), where they stayed, unable to take off, for some time until, one after the other, they perished.

October 6, 2005. A raft of 15 Red-throated Loons on Lake Timiskaming near Haileybury was observed by Anthony Miller.

December 13-16, 2010. One winter plumage adult was found by Les Binkowski in distress in a parking lot at Otto Lake. Its feet and stomach were iced up, so it was brought into a warm place to thaw out, then released at the rapids in Firemen's Park, Swastika. Photographed by Mike Leahy.