Albertawow

Alberta Common Loon  (Gavia immer)

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Adults can range from 61–100 cm (24–40 inches) in length with a 122–152 cm (4–5-foot) wingspan. The weight can vary from 1.6 to 8 kg (3.6 to 17.6 lbs). Breeding adults have a black head, white under parts, and a checkered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is brownish, with the chin and fore neck white. The bill is black-blue and held horizontally. The Great northern Loon breeds in Canada, parts of the northern United States, Greenland, and Alaska. This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater, diving as deep as 200 feet (60 m). Freshwater diets consist of pike, perch, sunfish, trout, and bass; salt-water diets consist of rock fish, flounder, sea trout, and herring. The bird needs a long distance to gain momentum for take-off, and is ungainly on landing. Its clumsiness on land is due to the legs being positioned at the rear of the body: this is ideal for diving but not well-suited for walking. When the birds land on water, they skim along on their bellies to slow down, rather than on their feet, as these are set too far back. The loon swims gracefully on the surface, dives as well as any flying bird, and flies competently for hundreds of kilometers in migration. It flies with its neck outstretched, usually calling a particular tremolo that can be used to identify a flying loon. Its call has been alternately called "haunting," "beautiful," "thrilling," "mystical" and "enchanting.

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