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Arctic Loon Gavia arctica
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Distribution and population
This species has a wide range across northern latitudes, breeding on large, deep freshwater lakes across northern Europe and Asia. After breeding inviduals move southwards and towards the sea, wintering in sheltered coasts in the north-east Atlantic, and on the eastern and western coasts of the Pacific (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.280,000-1,500,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while the population in Russia has been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is strongly migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998). It breeds in isolated solitary pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998) from April onwards (Flint et al. 1984), nesting later further to the north depending on the timing of the thaw (del Hoyo et al. 1992). On migration the species often forms flocks of c.50 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1992), generally occurring singly, in pairs or small flocks during the winter (Snow and Perrins 1998) and occasionally forming large congregations in rich coastal fishing areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Habitat Breeding It breeds on deep, productive, freshwater lakes (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or extensive pools with islets, peninsulas and other inaccessible nesting sites (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species is most common on inshore waters along sheltered coasts (del Hoyo et al. 1992), occasionally also frequenting large inland freshwater bodies (Flint et al. 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1992) such as natural lakes or barrages, lagoons and large rivers (Snow and Perrins 1998). Diet Its diets consists predominantly of fishalthough aquatic insects, molluscs, crustaceans and some plant matter may also be taken (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a heap of plant matter placed near the water's edge (del Hoyo et al. 1992) on islets or hummocks emerging from the water, sometimes also on clumps of grass on the shore (Flint et al. 1984). Management information In Scotland the construction of floating artificial nesting islands (rafts) on lakes where breeding success was low and/or nests had been flooded succeeded in increasing the breeding success of the species in the area (Hancock 2000). In Sweden it was also found that nesting islands and areas of surrounding water should be included in sanctuaries for this species (Gotmark et al. 1989).

During the breeding season the species is threatened by the acidification of breeding waters, heavy metal pollution and water level fluctuations (del Hoyo et al. 1992) especially during the incubation period (Gotmark et al. 1989, Hake et al. 2005). It also suffers from lower reproductive success due to human disturbance (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. from tourists or wetland visitors) (Gotmark et al. 1989) and is indirectly affected by breeding habitat alteration (e.g. afforestation) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). During the winter the species is highly vulnerable to coastal oil spills, especially in rich fishing grounds where large congregation may occur, and is commonly caught and drowned as bycatch in fishing nets (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species is also highly sensitive to disturbance from coastal wind farms (wind turbines) (Garthe and Huppop 2004) and is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006).

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Flint, V. E.; Boehme, R. L.; Kostin, Y. V.; Kuznetsov, A. A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Garthe, S.; Hüppop, O. 2004. Scaling possible adverse effects of marine wind farms on seabirds: developing and applying a vulnerability index. Journal of Applied Ecology 41(4): 724-734.

Götmark, F.; Neergaard, R.; Åhlund, M. 1989. Nesting ecology and management of the Arctic Loon in Sweden. Journal of Wildlife Management 53: 1025-1031.

Hake, M.; Dahlgren, T.; Ahlund, M.; Lindberg, P.; Eriksson, M. O. G. 2005. The impact of water level fluctuation on the breeding success of the black-throated diver Gavia arctica in south-west Sweden. Ornis Fennica 82(1): 1-12.

Hancock, M. 2000. Artificial floating islands for nesting black-throated divers Gavia arctica in Scotland: construction, use and effect on breeding success. Bird Study 47(2): 165-175.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sokolov, L. V.; Gordienko, N. S. 2008. Has recent climate warming affected the dates of bird arrival to the Il'men Reserve in the Southern Urals? Russian Journal of Ecology 39: 56-62.

Vahatalo, A. V.; Rainio, K.; Lehikoinen, A.; Lehikoinen, E. 2004. Spring arrival of birds depends on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Avian Biology 35: 210-216.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Gavia arctica. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Arctic loon (Gavia arctica) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Gaviidae (Loons/Divers)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,900,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment