Bird of the Week, February 17, 2012
Yellow-billed Loon

Yellow-billed Loon by Luke Seitz


The Yellow-billed Loon is the largest of the world’s five loon species. It can be told from the Common Loon, which it resembles, by its larger yellow or ivory-colored bill. This species has very specific habitat requirements, needing deep, clear, clean bodies of water for successful breeding. Its nest is a small depression in a hummock constructed of mud or peat and lined with grasses, built close to the water’s edge. It feeds largely on fish, but takes some invertebrates and vegetation.


Threats include fishing bycatch, marine pollution coastal oil spills in both its breeding and wintering ranges (as many as 870 Yellow-billed Loons were killed in the Exxon Valdez spill), oil and gas development, rising sea levels caused by climate change, and subsistence harvest by Native Alaskans.


The Yellow-billed Loon was designated a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2009. Unfortunately, it is still awaiting the attention it requires. 



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Photo: Luke Seitz; Range Map, NatureServe