Pacific Loon, a Load of Feathers
by Bryce W. Robinson
I’ve seen Pacific Loon in all states of plumage. I’ve always been impressed by a loons looks, but this summer I had the chance to get very close to many Pacific Loons, and really gain an appreciation for their feather composition.
I think that most consider tropical birds to be among the most decorated, and striking in plumage. Colors that come from the tropical regions of the world are truly unique, but I consider some birds of the northern hemisphere to be equally exotic, and equally striking.
The Pacific Loon in full breeding plumage is breathtaking. At close proximity, you notice the velvet appearance of the throat, and its iridescent qualities enhanced. Purple, on an Arctic bird, is awe inspiring. The ghostly grey of the head and nape always leaves me mesmerized. I think that the numerous, dense, and fine quality of the feathers gives the bird a shape and form unlike any other feathered creature. In fact, the form does not even seem feathered at all.
The patterns of the loon are of note, as they are unlike any pattern I’ve ever seen in a creature. The fine lines and stripes are neat, organized, and crisp. This sharp appearance matches well with the behaviors of the bird. It holds its head high, glances about with confidence, and dives with absolute grace. In fact, the regality of the Pacific Loon impresses me, as I admire all creatures who frequent this world in confidence and style.
In winter, it interests me that the bird seems more sleek, and thin. I’ve yet to get close to a wintering Pacific Loon. When I do, I hope to study the difference in feathers and shape, and compare and contrast the two looks of the same bird. It fascinates me, that evolutionarily, two molts have evolved for this bird, and the two resulting plumages are dramatically different.
I can’t explain my fascination with the bird any further. As I’m scheduled to frequent the Arctic summer again for the next two years, I’ll be seeing breeding loons once more. At every opportunity, I’ll record the behaviors and appearance of each individual, and communicate their beauty the best I can. As I’ll be in Western Alaska, there is a great chance I’ll happen upon the Arctic Loon. It will be fascinating to compare my images between the Arctic and the Pacific, two birds that are very similar. I suppose I’ll have to wait and see what comes about, but when it does, I’ll be sharing.
I have to agree with you about the beauty of some of our North American birds being equally as beautiful as tropical birds. I love some of the tropical colors, but the precision of this loon’s markings is amazing. It looks to me like someone decided he needed a pleated shirt. I love the patterning on moths that most think are drab, too. It just requires looking beyond a bright splash of color to appreciate them. And I feel the same way about our west Texas desert scenery: there is all sorts of beauty if you just look for it. Subtlety can be good.
You are absolutely correct! I live in the Great Basin, a place most find disgusting, but to me it is one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. There is absolute beauty in subtlety, and I find that the more you know something, the more you see the beauty. Perhaps I’ll write a post about a bird that is under appreciated, or seemingly drab and boring.
Excellent picture, Bryce. Does the Pacific loon sound like those that are found in the Northeast?
Thank you Kathy. Yes, they do, but it isn’t quite as full, drawn out, are yodel like as the birds from the northeast. It is still quite the sound, when you are walking through the tundra, and you hear the wails of two loons, declaring their territories.
My favorite wail is from the Yellow-billed Loon. Although I did hear one, I was unable to capture it on film. Here is a link, I encourage you to take a look:
Thanks so much for sharing. It is a great video. They sound similar to the loons I have heard in the Adirondacks, but a bit different as well. I have rented a cabin in the park a number of years on a large pond (really more like a lake) and I love to hear the loons in the early morning. Definitely my favorite birds.
Bryce, I’ve never seen this species in person so your image and description are educational for me. I want (but wouldn’t) to touch that velvety neck.
I feel the same way Mia. I bet it feels like nothing I’ve ever felt. Loon felt, truly unique, haha.
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