Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2004-39

Common name:

Red-throated loon

Scientific name: Gavia stellata
Date: November 6, 2004
Time: 11:30 am
Length of time observed: approx. 30 minutes
Number: 1
Age: juvenile
Sex: unknown
Location: west end of Hyrum Reservoir, Cache County, Utah
County: Cache
Latilong: 3
Elevation: 4650 ft
Distance to bird: approx 100 meters
Optical equipment: Swarovski Spotting Scope ATS 65mm with 20-60x zoom
Weather: sunny, temperature 45-50 degrees
Light Conditions: bright sun
Detailed description of bird: This bird was a small sized loon (smaller than the common loons nearby), similar in size, although much thicker necked, than nearby Western/Clark's grebes. The bird appeared to be a juvenile. The top and back of the head and neck were brownish gray with the color on the head extending just to the eye. The face below the eye was whitish and throat (not pure white). The neck was a lighter brownish gray (except the darker back side) down to the upper breast (about one inch above the water line). The neck was not solid in color, but instead was textured as fine streaks. The upper breast was whitish. The back was medium brownish gray with the color somewhat blotchy in appearance, not in a definable pattern. The sides of the bird from the waterline up about a half to one inch were white with some small, diffuse speckles of gray.
The bill of the bird was quite narrow, gently tapering over its moderate length to a point. It was quite pale and somewhat grayish in color. The bill was kept pointed upward at about 20 degrees giving the bill an upturned appearance.
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior:  swam around with several Western/Clark's grebes. The bird did not dive during the period of observation.
Habitat:  reservoir, about 1.8 x 0.5 miles in size
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Similar species are: Pacific, Arctic, common and yellow-billed loons. The most similar are the Pacific and Arctic loons. These species in similarly colored plumages both have well defined color separation on the neck between a dark posterior half and a white frontal half. The observed bird had brownish gray color all the way around the neck, grading to slightly darker on the posterior half. Pacific loon does not have white on the sides above the water line as was  observed; Arctic loons have this white but it typically is without the observed darker speckling. The bill of the observed bird was finer in shape that either Pacific or Arctic loon (a Pacific loon was also observed the same morning), and neither the Pacific or Arctic loons keep the bill angled upward for extended periods of time. The Pacific and Arctic loons also have darker backs than the observed bird. Common (present nearby) and yellow-billed loons are noticeably larger than this bird, have much larger and thicker bills, and like Pacific and Arctic loons have white down the front of the neck. Neither of these larger loons has white on the body along the water line. The yellow-billed loon has a pale, yellowish bill.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen this species in similar plumage in Michigan and along the west coast.
References consulted: Sibley's Guide to Birds, National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ron Ryel
Observer's address: 1649 North 1000 East, North Logan, UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Larry Ryel, Melanie Spriggs, Brian Dixon, Jean Lown, all the same day.
Date prepared: November 8, 2004    (General Public)
Additional material:  
Additional comments: