Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii)

The yellow-billed loon population of the North American Arctic was seriously impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989. The disaster caused the deaths of many of these loons as well as many other marine organisms.

Description

Apart from their yellow, slightly uptilted bills, they look a lot like the common loon, with primarily black plumage and white markings on the wings and neck.

Distribution

Compared to other loon species, the yellow-billed loon is far more restricted to the Arctic- it does not breed anywhere below the treeline. It has an almost circumpolar distribution, but is not common anywhere in the world. In Canada it is found to the north of the range of the common loon, on the tundra from Hudson Bay to the edge of the Yukon, and also on the western Arctic islands.

Ecology

Yellow-billed loons are similar in habit to common loons, but since their ranges do not overlap significantly, they do not compete. The yellow-billed loon prefers to nest on small lakes, but it will often fly to larger lakes or the ocean for food. It is interesting to note that this loon often nests in close proximity to the glaucous gull, Larus hyperboreus. This relationship is beneficial for both species because each is more likely to receive warning if a predator approaches.

There is not a lot of information on the wintering habits of this species. They are, however, regularly seen wintering on the Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to northern British Columbia.