Red-throated Diver

Irish Name: Lóma rua
Scientific name: Gavia stellata
Bird Family: Divers
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Conservation status

Status

Winter visitor to all Irish coasts from September to April. There is a very small breeding population in County Donegal.

Identification

Red-throated Divers are the smallest of the divers found in Ireland. The distinctive red neck develops in the build up to the breeding season (spring) and fades over the autumn. During the winter the neck plumage becomes more than half-white distinguishing Red-throated Divers from Black-throated Divers (50/50 white/black on neck). Other characteristic of this species are its grey-brown plumage and up- tilted bill, which birds usually hold pointing slightly upwards when on the water and in flight. Compared to other species of divers the Red-throated Diver has a flat chest, a thin neck, a light bill, a small head and a pale appearance. Usually birds swim low on the water but may float higher at times. They often jump up to dive and can stay underwater for over a minute. Red-throated Divers are more gregarious than other divers and small, scattered flocks on the sea during the winter are common.

Voice

A loud ‘goose-like’ call in flight and breeding pairs produce a ‘wailing’ call. Less vocal in winter.

Diet

Small fish such as sprats, sand eels, codling and flatfish. Other food items include fish spawn, frogs, shrimps, molluscs, water insects and annelids.

Breeding

Very few pairs breed in Ireland and these are restricted to Co. Donegal. In 2006 only three of six known territories were occupied and breeding success was low. Ireland is the most southerly breeding location in the species' range, with most of the northwest European population breeding in northern Russia, Scandinavian, Iceland and Scotland. In Ireland they breed on small fresh water loughs and pairs return to their breeding territories during April and March. Nests are typically a scrape lined with aquatic vegetation and constructed close to or on the waters edge, with the same sites often re-used in successive years. There is little food in the loughs used for breeding and adults have to travel to more productive waters at the coast to forage. Eggs and chicks are susceptible to predators such as Mink and breeding pairs are easily disturbed by human activity.

Wintering

This species is most numerous in Irish coastal waters out of the breeding season, although resident breeding pairs and non-breeding birds may be encountered during the summer. Red-throated Divers start to arrive in Ireland from their northern breeding grounds in September and winter numbers peak in January and February. During the winter they are well distributed around the Irish coastline and are typically associated with shallow sandy bays.

Monitored by

Irish Wetland Bird Survey and BirdTrack.

Similar Species

Black-throated Diver

Irish Name:
Lóma Artach
Scientific name:
Gavia arctica
Bird Family:
Divers

Great Northern Diver

Irish Name:
Lóma mór
Scientific name:
Gavia immer
Bird Family:
Divers