Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2016-45a

Common name:

Arctic Loon

Scientific name: Galvia Arctica
Date: 11/20/16
Time: 8am
Length of time observed: 1 hour
Number: 1
Age: Juv?
Sex: ?
Location: Hyrum Reservoir
County: Cache
Latilong: 41.6191,-111.8583
Elevation: 4791'
Distance to bird: 75 yards
Optical equipment: Pentax ED 8x43, Pentax 80mm ED spotting scope with 20x-60x eyepiece
Weather: Sunny and cool
Light Conditions: Great. Low sun. Not any glare.
Description:        Size of bird: Larger than Pacifics, smaller than Common Loons.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Loon.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Dark upperparts with white underparts
(Description:)            Bill Type: Long and pointed.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I was able to view this loon in good light for about an hour in good light in direct comparison with a pair of Common Loons.

Superficially, it had a blocky shape, more similar to the Common Loons it was hanging out with than all of the Pacific Loons I have seen which appear more smooth and rounded. Most of the time the Arctic Loon was swimming low in the water and not showing off its white flanks. At times when the loon would raise its wings the white flanks patch would be visible. The white differed from Pacifics which with show uniform white flanks that are straight across along the top of the flank. The front half of the white on the Arctic was straight across until the rear of the bird where it raised up and peaked behind the legs. This essentially gave a look of only a white patch on the hind portion of the bird rather than across the whole flanks.

The head of the bird was blocky with the top of the head being flat and it had a steep forehead (vs rounded head and less steep forehead of a Pacific). The bill was thicker than any Pacific I have seen and the bird held it mostly upwards like a Red-throated Loon would. The bird appeared slightly smaller than the Commons around it, but larger than the Pacifics at the reservoir.

The contrast between the light and dark sections of the head and neck was strong and well defined, unlike on Pacifics which show dusky auriculars. The auriculars of the Arctic were white and white extended in a straight line back from the eye. The upperparts of the neck and head were darker than on Pacifics and added to the sharp contrast between the front and back of the neck. The bird didn't have a chinstrap but both Pacific and Arctic Loons can show this. The bird also didn't show a dark vent stripe under the tail which Pacifics will show.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None
Behavior: Hung out with Common Loons. Actively diving at times and staying down for a long time.
Habitat: Calm open reservoir
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Common Loon- Larger than Arctic with messy sides of the neck (sharply defined on the Arctic, paler back than Arctic, white around the eyes (dark around eyes of Arctic)

Pacific Loon- Smaller than Arctic Loon with more rounded head and less steep forehead. Dusky cheeks (vs white on Arctic with white extending straight back from the eye). White on the flanks uniform (vs rear white femoral patch near the rump of the Arctic Loon). Bill smaller and held straight rather than upright on the thicker Arctic Loon bill. Nape paler than on Arctic. Less blocky than Arctic Loon.

Red-throated Loon- Smaller and paler overall with more extensive white on face and neck than the Arctic.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
None with Arctic Loon, some with Pacific Loon in Utah and a lot with Common and Red-throated in New York.
References consulted: Sibley's 2nd edition, National Geographic Complete Birds, 2nd edition, Kaufman Advanced Birding, 2nd edition. Birding article on Arctic vs Pacific Loons
Description from: From memory
Observer: Kenny Frisch
Observer's address: Holladay, UT 84117
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: I was with Tim Avery for this chase, but this loon has been well viewed (and decently documented).
Date prepared: 11/26/16
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: This ebird checklist from Dickson Smith has the best photo to date of the Arctic Loon and provides a great comparison with a Pacific Loon. The larger size, blockier head with steep forehead, thicker bill and differences in white on the front of the Arctic Loon are very apparent.