Common Loon

Gavia immer

The eerie yodel of the Common Loon is a symbol of the wild North. The territorial call of the male loon can be heard from lakes across Canada to the very northern United States.

Interesting Information

  • The Common Loon swims underwater to catch fish, propelling itself with its feet. It swallows most of its prey underwater. The loon has sharp, rearward-pointing projections on the roof of its mouth and tongue that help it keep a firm hold on slippery fish.

  • Migrating Common Loons occasionally land on wet highways or parking lots, mistaking them for rivers and lakes. They become stranded without a considerable amount of open water for a long takeoff. A loon may also get stranded on a pond that is too small.

  • Loons are water birds, only going ashore to mate and incubate eggs. Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, allowing efficient swimming but only awkward movement on land.

  • The Common Loon is flightless for a few weeks after molting all of its wing feathers at the same time in midwinter.


Adult Description

  • Adult Description

  • Large waterbird.
  • Long pointed bill.
  • Long body slopes to rear.
  • Sits low on water.Length Range: 71-91 cm (28-36 in)
  • Weight: 4126 g (145.6 oz)
  • Size: Large (16 - 32 in)
  • Color Primary: White, Black, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: White
  • Upperparts: Checkered black and white.
  • Back Pattern: Spotted or speckled
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid

Sex Differences

Sexes similar.


Juvenile similar to nonbreeding adult, but head more uniformly dark with more distinct edge between light underparts and dark upperparts. Back feathers edged with light, giving a scaled appearance. Bill paler, but still with dark upper edge.

Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


  • Breeds on clear freshwater lakes with rocky shorelines surrounded by forest; also on subarctic tundra lakes.

  • Stages for migration on large lakes and rivers.

  • Winters primarily in coastal marine areas near shore; also in large freshwater lakes.


Pursues fish underwater, grabs with bill.


Fish; some other aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Gaviiformes
Family: Gaviidae
Genus: Gavia
Species: Gavia immer

Similar Species

  • Cormorants have longer necks and blunt-tipped or slightly hooked bills and are not white on chest or throat.

  • Yellow-billed Loon has ivory-yellow bill with dark only at the base of the upper edge. In winter, neck is paler with dark ear patch.

  • Red-throated Loon has more slender bill usually held more upward, paler face in winter, and neck without pale collar.

  • Pacific Loon is smaller with even division between gray and white on side of neck, lacks pale collar. Lacks the Common Loon's white around the eye.

Bird Sound

Call a tremulous wail.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution

Bird Sound

Call a tremulous wail.