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Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii
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This species is classified as Near Threatened as it is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to unsustainable subsistence harvest and almost qualifies for listing as threatened under criteria A2d+3d+4d. However, accurate data is lacking and further surveys need to be conducted to quantify the current rate of harvest.

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
Gavia adamsii breeds in the Arctic in Russia, Alaska (USA), and Canada , and winters at sea mainly off the coasts of Norway (>1500 individuals [Bell and Håland 2008]), western North America, and the eastern coast of Asia, including the coasts of Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and China (del Hoyo et al. 1992; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009). The population is thought to number 16,000-32,000 individuals, with 3,000-4,000 in Alaska, 20,000 in Canada and 8,000 in Russia (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009). The breeding range in Russia has possibly contracted (K. Laing in litt. 2008). The westernmost breeding site in Russia is the south-western coast of Novaya Zemlya archipelago; the most dense (1.8 bp/10 sq km) and stable population is thought to be on Chukotka Peninsula; and the northernmost record is from the Upper Taimyra river mouth, Central Taimyr (see Håland 2008).

Population justification
The global population has been estimated at 16,000-32,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Population trends have not been quantified. However, the total of c.1,000 individuals harvested in the Bering Sea region in 2007 indicates that subsistence harvest may be causing a population decline (Matt Kirchhoff in litt. 2010). Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the breeding range of the species has declined in the west and east of Russia (K. Laing in litt. 2008). As such, a decline of 1-19% over the past 29 years (three generations) is precautionarily suspected, although surveys are required to confirm that such declines are currently occuring.

Behaviour This species is fully migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It breeds from early June (largely depending upon the timing of the spring thaw) in solitary pairs, after which it travels southwards and towards the coast (del Hoyo et al. 1992) to its wintering grounds, where it is present between October and May (Snow and Perrins 1998). Outside of the breeding season the species occurs singly, in pairs or in small groups (Snow and Perrins 1998). Habitat Breeding The species may breed on low-lying Arctic coasts and estuaries but is more common on freshwater pools, lakes or rivers in the Arctic tundra (del Hoyo et al. 1992), showing a preference for deep (Earnst et al. 2006), clear lakes with stony or sandy substrates (Flint et al. 1984) where water levels do not fluctuate (North and Ryan 1989). Optimum habitats include lakes where the water does not completely freeze, which have dependable supplies of fish and which have highly convoluted shorelines and aquatic vegetation providing habitats for fish and sites for nesting and brood rearing (Earnst et al. 2006). The species generally avoids forested areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992) but may fly long distances to feed away from breeding waters (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species inhabits inshore waters (del Hoyo et al. 1992), fjords with muddy substrates (Byrkjedal, et al. 2000) and inlets (Snow and Perrins 1998) along sheltered coasts (del Hoyo et al. 1992), generally avoiding ice-covered waters (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet Its diet is little known but may consist predominantly of fish (e.g. Cottidae, Microgadus proximus and Gadus morhua) as well as crustaceans, molluscs and marine annelids (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a small depression (Flint et al. 1984) in a mound of plant matter or turf (del Hoyo et al. 1992)  constructed on dry land (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Flint et al. 1984) 1 m away (North and Ryan 1989) from the edge of water (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Flint et al. 1984), usually on the shores of lakes with deep (Earnst et al. 2006), clear water and stony or sandy substrates (Flint et al. 1984) in sites providing good visibility over the surrounding land and water (North and Ryan 1989).

The species is vulnerable to coastal oil spills in both its breeding and wintering ranges (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It may be threatened by oil development activities on its Alaskan breeding grounds, as c.90% of birds nesting on the Arctic Coastal Plain are in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and 29% are on tracts that have already been leased for oil and gas exploration (North and Ryan 1989; K. Laing in litt. 2008). Wintering individuals are also potentially threatened by heavy metal pollution and by drowning in fishing nets (particularly in the north Pacific [del Hoyo et al. 1992]). Although rates of harvest are currently thought to be at sustainable levels (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009), exact harvest numbers are unknown, and a record of c.1,000 individuals taken in the Bering Sea region in 2007 indicates that this may pose the greatest threat to the species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009; M. Kirchhoff in litt. 2010). Climate change is likely to be a future threat to the species (Gavrilo 2008). Threats are exacerbated by a low reproductive rate and very specific breeding habitat requirements (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009, K. Laing in litt. 2008).

Conservation Actions Underway
In 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working with a variety of native, state and federal partners, developed a conservation agreement to protect the species in northern and western Alaska, with an aim to eliminate or reduce current or potential threats (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009). Conservation Actions Proposed
Update the current population estimate and establish a monitoring programme to elucidate trends. Assess current levels of harvest and initiate control measures should they be unsustainable. Assess comparative ecology and possible impact of climate change.

Bell, J. and Håland, A. 2008. Visible migration of divers along the Norwegian Coast. In: A. Håland (ed.), The Loon & Diver Workshop 2007 2008: 1: 47. Vardø, Norway.

Byrkjedal, I.; Breistol, A.; Mjos, A-T.; Strann, K-B. 2000. Winter habitat of White-billed and Great Northern Divers (Gavia adamsii and G. immer) on the coast of Norway. Ornis Norvegica 23(1-2): 50-55.

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

Earnst, S. L.; Platte, R.; Bon, L. 2006. A landscape-scale model of yellow-billed loon (Gavia adamsii) habitat preferences in northern Alaska. Hydrobiologia 567: 227-236.

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

Gavrilo, M. 2008. Divers in the Russian Arctic: current state of knowledge on distribution, migration, population status. In: A. Håland (ed.), The Loon & Diver Workshop 2007 2008: 1: 47. Vardø, Norway.

Håland, A. (ed.). 2008. The loon and diver workshop 2007, Vardø, Norway. NNI, Vardø, Norway.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

North, M. R.; Ryan, M. R. 1989. Characteristics of lakes and nest sites used by Yellow-billed Loons in Arctic Alaska USA. Journal of Field Ornithology 60(3): 296-304.

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

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 2009. Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii. Available at: #

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
Anderson, O., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L. & Ashpole, J

Kirchhoff, M. & Laing, K.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Gavia adamsii. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Gaviidae (Loons/Divers)
Species name author (Gray, 1859)
Population size 11000-21000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,300,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment