Bird Database

Red-throated Loon

(Gavia stellata)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Climate change, Pollution, Fishing nets

Conservation Actions

More data are needed on population trends and magnitudes of threats

Red-throated Loon

(Gavia stellata)

Many people aren’t aware that there are two species of loon in New Hampshire. While the iconic Common Loon’s image is plastered on T-shirts, mugs, and all manner of other paraphernalia, the Red-throated Loon tends to slip under the radar. This makes perfect sense of course, since this smaller species doesn’t nest here and can only found on the ocean from October to May. The largest numbers occur in November, when southbound migration peaks and a lucky observer might see dozens in a day from coastal vantage points. It is at the same time of year that the species is most likely to show up inland on larger lakes.

Red-throated Loons nest on lakes and ponds in the northern tundra. Unlike Common Loons, they leave their breeding lakes to feed, sometimes traveling over 10 miles to forage in larger lakes, rivers, estuaries, or the ocean. They also differ from their more familiar relatives in vocalization. Rather than the eerie wails and yodels of the Common Loon, Red-throateds utter a variety of more guttural calls that often sound like geese. Finally, being smaller, they don’t need to run along the water as far to get airborne.

Separating the two species in winter plumage involves careful consideration of size, shape, and posture. In addition to being smaller, the Red-throated Loon is much slenderer, a feature most easily seen in its neck. Its bill is also thinner and tends to be held slightly above the horizontal. In spring, they start to acquire the red-patch on their throat and are easily distinguished from their larger black-and-white cousins.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Red-throated Loon
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count