Friday, February 13, 2015

Red-throated Loon in Chula Vista

Red-throated Loon
Red-throated Loon. Chula Vista, California. January 18, 2015. Greg Gillson.
This Red-throated Loon in non-breeding plumage was swimming in San Diego Bay at Chula Vista's J Street Marina last month.

I really don't have that much to say about it, except that I find the 5 species of loons easier to identify in their gray and white winter patterns than in their more colorful breeding plumages. In this case, the gray of the hind head and neck merge smoothly into the white throat and fore neck without a strong line of demarcation. The bill is thin compared to other loons and often held at an upward angle while swimming.

And, as long as long as I don't have anything to say... Loons in Great Britain are called "Divers," a very apt name. So this would be the Red-throated Diver there. Our Common Loon gets the fantastic name of Great Northern Diver. It's a little ostentatious, especially considering there isn't any Lesser Northern Diver nor a Great Southern Diver.

In any case, the scientific names are always the same, regardless of local vernacular names or languages. For instance, some local American names for Red-throated Loon include Little Loon, Pegging-awl Loon, Pepper-shinned Loon, and Sprat Loon. On the other hand, Gavia stellata is the scientific name of this bird throughout the world in any language. Gavia is a Latin name for Smew (a Eurasian sea duck), and stellata or stars, a reference to the white speckling on the back of the bird in non-breeding plumage, such as our bird under discussion.