Bird GuideLoonsPacific Loon

At a Glance

This loon is hardly 'Pacific' in summer -- its breeding range extends across northern Canada as far east as Hudson Bay and Baffin Island. However, the great majority of these birds head west to the Pacific Coast to spend the winter.
Duck-like Birds, Loons
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Open Ocean, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Found inland rarely in fall and very rarely in spring. Therefore, birds may either make long overland flights or travel long distance around Alaska en route between wintering areas on Pacific Coast and breeding grounds in central Canadian Arctic. Northbound migrants along Pacific Coast may travel in flocks several miles offshore, usually less than 60' above water; avoid flying on days with strong headwinds.


24" (61 cm). In summer, has gray head, white checkering on black back. In winter, like small Common Loon but has thinner bill, more even division between dark and light on side of neck. Less white around eye than on Common or Red-throated Loons.
About the size of a Heron, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Gray, Purple, White
Wing Shape
Narrow, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape

Songs and Calls

A harsh kok-kok-kok-kok; wailing notes on breeding grounds.
Call Pattern
Complex, Falling, Rising
Call Type
Croak/Quack, Odd, Scream, Yodel


Ocean, open water; in summer, tundra lakes. Breeds mainly on lakes surrounded by tundra, also lakes within forested country; often overlaps with Red-throated Loon, but requires larger and deeper bodies of water. In winter, mostly on ocean, often farther from shore than Red-throated or Common loons.



2, sometimes 1, rarely 3. Brown, with blackish-brown spots. Both sexes incubate (although female does more), 23-25 days.


Leave nest shortly after hatching, return to nest for resting and sleeping during first few days. Both parents feed young. Adults may fly several miles from nesting territory to other waters to feed and to bring back food for young. Age at first flight probably 60-65 days. One brood per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled mainly by feet. May dip head into water repeatedly, looking for prey, before diving.


Includes fish, crustaceans, insects. Diet varies with place and season. Apparently eats mostly small fish when these are available, especially in winter and on ocean. Also eats crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, and some plant material, especially during breeding season.


May mate for life. Courtship displays include ritualized bill-dipping and splash-diving by both members of pair. Less aerial display than in Red-throated Loon. Very aggressive in defense of nesting territory, and has been seen to kill ducklings that strayed near nest. Nest: Site is almost always at edge of water, on shore or island, sometimes in shallow water. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is a heap of vegetation pulled up from around nest site, sometimes mixed with mud or with mud foundation; may rarely build floating nest.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Numbers apparently stable. Would be vulnerable to pollution in offshore wintering areas.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Pacific Loon. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Pacific Loon

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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