Red-throated Loon in Breeding Plumage at McKinley Marina on April 20, 2018

Birding along the lakefront in Milwaukee today I ran into John Miller who in talking had never seen a Horned Grebe. I said I had seen 3 at McKinley Marina on the about an hour ago. We were at Lake Park and it was quiet so we meet over at the McKinley Marina. We walked out the concrete pier about a 1/4  mile with not much seen other than the Long-tailed Duck which was not close, male which was still hanging around. On our way back to our cars I spotted a couple of Horned Grebes. John started photographing them. While he was busy doing that I used my bins and checked out north of the big pier. I spotted what I thought was loon out quiet a ways. I knew this was a loon I had never seen before, I thought OMG, it is a Red-throated Loon nearing full breeding plumage. It dove 5 times and stayed under for long periods of time. Each time it surfaced, it was a couple hundred feet more out in the lake until it was pretty much hard to make out anymore details. I never thought I would have ever seen one of these as we typically see the none breeding plumage Red-throated Loons, it must be the weather! A fun time out which started out slow. Still present at the marina, 100 Bonaparte’s Gulls, Long-tailed Duck, adult male, and noticed a nice raft of about 25 Ruddy Ducks near Bradford Beach. Finally a gorgeous day out with plenty of sun, felt like 60 and no wind.  It has been along time since I could go with out my snow boots and winter coat, how sweet! Images were taken on April 20, 2018.

Red-throated Loons Milwaukee River Mouth, Milwaukee Lakefront, February 23, 2014

The area of the mouth of the Milwaukee River on the Milwaukee Lakefront produced 3 Red-throated Loons. Some of the other species present and photographed were White-winged Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Greater Scaups.


Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon

Binomial name: Gavia stellata

Category: Loons

Description: Dark gray feathers with a white throat and underparts, small black and white strips on the back of its neck.  In breeding season, the throat turns red, thus the name.  Small bill which fluctuates between black and dark gray.

Size: 21” – 27” long, 36” – 47” wingspan

Weight: 2.2 lbs. – 6.0 lbs.

Habitat: Large lakes, coastal shorelines, inland rivers, and reservoirs.

Diet: Primarily fish, occasionally crustaceans, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates, rarely plants

Nesting: Both parents build the nest out of a mudscrape lined with plant material and some feathers.  The male will stand guard while the female incubates the eggs (2 eggs per clutch).  Both parents feed and raise the young and participate in distraction displays to lure predators away from the nest.  Mating pairs will breed for life.

Notes: Unlike other loon species which must take flight by running on the surface of water, the Red-throated Loon can fly directly from land or water.  It also does not carry its young on its back.


Red-throated Loon


Red-throated Loon


Red-throated Loon


Red-throated Loon


Red-throated Loon

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter


Female Common Goldeneye


Male Common Goldeneye


Male Red-breasted Merganser


Female Red-breasted Merganser


Male Greater Scaup


Male Greater Scaup