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Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gaviiformes
Family: Gaviidae
Genus: Gavia
Species: immer
Binomial name
Gavia immer

The Great Northern Diver, known in North America as the Common Loon (Gavia immer ), is a large member of the Loon or Diver family (28" to 36"), although it is slightly smaller than the similar White-billed Diver.

It breeds in Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. There is a smaller population in Iceland.

It winters at sea or on large lakes over a much wider range.

Distinguishing identifiers: The only diver with head all black and a white necklace; black bill distinguishes it from the White-billed Diver.

Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts, and a chequered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is drabber, with the chin and foreneck white. Its bill is grey or whitish and held horizontally.

It flies with its neck outstretched.

This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater, as deep as 200 feet. Fresh water diets consist of pike, perch, sunfish, trout and bass; salt water diets consist of rock cod[?], flounders[?], sea trout[?] and herring.

The tremolo call, sometimes referred to as loon laughter, is an eerie wailing, a symbol of the Canadian wilderness, and often used as atmosphere in horror films.

It is the national bird of Canada, appearing on the "loonie", and is also the provincial bird of Ontario and the state bird of Minnesota. Native tribes of British Columbia believed that an excess of calls from this bird predicted rain, and even brought it.

Folk names include: big loon, black-billed loon, call-up-a-storm, ember-goose, greenhead, guinea duck, imber diver, ring-necked loon, walloon.

head of a Great Northern Diver


Gavia: Latin for sea smew (although Divers are not Smew); immer: either (1) related to Swedish immer and emmer, the gray or blackened ashes of a fire, referring to its dark plumage; or (2) Latin immergo, to immerse, and immersus, submerged.



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