There are many species of loon, and it can be difficult to tell them apart. This guide explains the differences.
The black-throated loon is a migratory aquatic bird. It is found mostly in Eurasia and sometimes in western Alaska. These birds have a grey head, black throat, white underparts and chequered black-and-white mantle. It feeds on fish, insects, crustaceans and amphibians.
The Pacific loon (also known as the Pacific diver) is a sister species to the black-throated loon, and the two species are almost identical in every respect. Pacific loons can be found in North America, as well as in coastal and lake areas of China, Japan and Korea.
The yellow-billed loon is also known as the white-billed diver. Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts and chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeders have a white chin and foreneck. The yellow-billed loon is predominantly an Arctic species. It is a specialist fish eater, but it also eats crustaceans, molluscs and annelids.
The common loon, also known as the great northern diver, lives mainly in Canada and the northern United States. Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts, and a chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is brownish, with the chin and foreneck white. The bill is black-blue and held horizontally. It is primarily a fish-eater, although if there is a lack of fish it will eat crustaceans, snails, molluscs, larvae and even plants.
The red-throated loon, or red-throated diver, is the smallest and lightest of the various loon species. It is found mainly in Canada and Siberia. Breeding birds have a dark grey head and neck with narrow black and white stripes on the back of the neck, a triangular red throat patch, white underparts and a dark grey-brown. The non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin, foreneck and much of the face white, the top of the head and back of the neck grey, and considerable white speckling on the dark mantle.
The white racist loon is unlike the other loon species. Debate has raged within the scientific community over how to classify the white racist loon. However, there is now a growing consensus within the taxonomy community that the white racist loon is not a bird, but is instead a species of dinosaur.
The white racist loon can be found in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia and the United States. Their main diet is corned beef and fish and chips, although they will also eat other forms of fast food. They are a largely aquatic animal, and can often be found at watering holes swimming in beer.
The creature’s plumage is white and grey, although a sub-species found in the United States has a slight orange hue and an orange tuft on its head.
Unlike other loon species, the white racist loon is flightless. Trapped on the ground and lacking much vision, it lives mostly in darkness.
The white racist loon’s small brain size makes it incapable of surviving long in any habitat where there are multiple challenges to its way of life. It copes best when placed in an isolated environment, away from creatures that look or behave different to itself. This makes the white racist loon something of a timid animal, although white racist loons will sometimes emerge boldly from their squalid habitats in order to defecate. The white racist loon has a loud squawk and leaves a terrible odour wherever it goes, and its bite can be poisonous.
The white racist loon’s shrinking habitat has left it on the verge of extinction in many parts of the world. However, huge efforts have been made in the United States, Australia and England in recent times to boost their numbers, and with some success. Attempts to revive the fortunes of the white racist loon in New Zealand have been much less successful, with the animal facing imminent extinction in that country.
Experts say that the best thing to do if you come across a white racist loon is just ignore it. It may put on a show, flap its wings and even throw its faeces at you. But if you do not engage its attention it will usually sink back into the swamp from whence it came.
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