Common Loon

Gavia immer

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The common loon is the national bird of Canada and is depicted on the Canadian one-dollar coin. Common loons are about the size of a cormorant, but considerably heavier, weighing up to 4.5 kg. Its magnificent plumage is extraordinarily beautiful: predominantly black with a white streaked, often open ring around the neck and white rows of squares, merging into spots on the back. The breast, belly and underwing coverts are white. The iris is claret in colour. The adult plumage is not fully developed until the fourth year by the earliest. The basic plumage is brown-grey with a pale breast, white fore-neck and dark collar on the lower neck. The loon's forehead is relatively angular, and, in juvenile plumage, the crest is clearly visible. Common loons are very good swimmers and divers. Their diet consists mainly of fish, but they also eat frogs, crustaceans and molluscs, as well as shoots and seeds. Its average diving depth is 10 metres, but it can dive up to 60 metres and, in extreme cases, probably even up to 200 metres. Its breeding grounds are the large inland lakes of the tundra and taiga of North America, as well as Greenland and Iceland. During the breeding season, loons call often and frequently. The clutch usually consists of 2 olive-brown eggs with dark spots. The chicks hatch after 25 to 29 days; they are tended by both parents until they become independent after just under 3 months.

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