[Tweeters] White flanks on a loon does NOT equate to it being an Arctic Loon

Robert O'Brien baro at pdx.edu
Thu Jan 7 01:04:01 PST 2021

These two photos are NOT a tutorial of how to identify an Arctic Loon.
They just illustrate a couple of possibilities.
Note the difference in the white along the flanks. The Arctic Loon (lower
photo) has a broader white patch towards the rear,but not
necessarily a blotch at the rear, The Pacific Loon above had consistent
white flanks but consistently very blotchy.
The bill sizes and shapes are quite similar as are the head shapes..
BUT the Arctic Loon photo which I took 13 years ago is just a single
photograph of the many I took at the time.. My different photos of this
bird appear superficially quite different and some conform in the head
shape described as secondary features by Brad Waggoner.
You can look at additional photos taken by others here:
https://ebird.org/checklist/S51313730 and
the latter url has a nice comparison between the two as well. I only found
these eBird photos before replying to this thread.
eBird shows only 1 record each for WA & OR, but eBird does not contain all
Here is an especially nice set of photos from the WA record
https://ebird.org/checklist/S18340151 and the following.
So, the lesson is, "Keep looking". And if you find a suspect take a lot of
photos. Brad Waggoner described the situation very well.
Bob OBrien Portland
PS eBird is a great resource.

On Sun, Jan 3, 2021 at 5:04 PM Robert O'Brien <baro at pdx.edu> wrote:

> Nice comments by Brad Waggoner. And clearly not to discourage

> anyone from looking for Arctic Loons. They are indeed rare and all the

> more reason to look for them. Always best to post to Tweeters if you have

> found a 'suspect'.

> Take a look and decide what you think, based upon Brad's comments, about

> the ID of these two Oregon loons, which I photographed over a period of

> many years. (P.S. There was nothing 'highly' unusual about the posture of

> either one.) Comments online or offline welcomed. To be continued.

> https://www.flickr.com/photos/159695762@N07/?

> Bob O'Brien Portland


> On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 3:06 PM Brad Waggoner <wagtail24 at gmail.com> wrote:


>> Hi all,


>> It seems every winter there are a handful of reports of an Arctic Loon

>> and “white flanks” are provided as the reasoning for the identification.

>> The presence of white flanks is really not the identifying feature of an

>> Arctic Loon. And all of our common expected species of loons can exhibit

>> this feature to some degree depending on the individual bird depending on

>> posture or behavior. The specific key feature to send one down the path of

>> a potential Arctic Loon identification is an enlarged white “bubble” or

>> oval area in the rear area of those white flanks. Then there are some

>> subtle features such as a somewhat blocky head and larger bill than a

>> Pacific Loon that will be of additional help. I think actually an Arctic

>> Loon can tend somewhat more suggestive of a Common Loon than a Pacific Loon.


>> There are only a handful of WBRC approved records of Arctic Loon so it

>> truly is a rare bird in Washington.


>> Good birding and Happy New Year!


>> Brad Waggoner


>> Sent from my iPhone

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