Gavia pacifica

Status:  Rare regular fall migrant statewide. Rare casual spring migrant statewide. Rare casual summer visitor statewide. Rare casual winter visitor Lake McConaughy, Keith Co.

Documentation: Photograph: 9-16 Nov 1971 Sarpy Co (Bray et al 1986).

Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized.

Pacific Loon was formerly considered a North American subspecies of the Arctic Loon, G. arctica, but they are now considered to be distinct species (AOU 1998).  We consider Nebraska records to be of pacifica, as indicated by Mollhoff (1987), although it is possible that arctica could occur in Nebraska (see Comments).

Spring: There are seven accepted records, all but one from the east:

20 Mar 2008 Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co (Silcock 2008)

30 Mar 2010 Branched Oak Lake (Silcock 2010)

3 Apr 1998 Zorinsky Lake, Douglas Co (Silcock and Jorgensen 1998)

5 Apr 2018 basic Lake Wanahoo, Saunders Co (Gary Roberts,

7 Apr 2013 Branched Oak Lake (Silcock 2013a)

3 May 2014 immature Pawnee Lake, Lancaster Co (Silcock 2014)

12-25 May 1999 adult basic Lake Ogallala, Keith Co (Jorgensen 2001).

SummerThere are 11 accepted records, all but two from the western part of the state:

3-23 Jun 2001 first alternate Lake Ogallala (Silcock 2001)

7 Jun 2006 adult alternate Lake Ogallala (Silcock 2006)

7-12 Jun 2003 adult alternate Lake Ogallala (Silcock 2003)

10 Jun 1982 Lake Ogallala “an excellent description was submitted” although it is no longer extant (Williams 1982)

14 Jun-6 Aug 1995 two, one each in alternate plumage and first alternate, Lake McConaughy (Stephen J. Dinsmore, personal communication, Gubanyi 1996)

15-22 Jun 1996 juvenile/first basic Lake Ogallala (Brogie 1997)

16 Jun 2000 adult basic Lake Alice, Scotts Bluff Co (Silcock 2000a)

1-4 Jul 1997 adult alternate Offutt Base Lake, Sarpy Co (Brogie 1998)

19 Jul 1979 adult alternate Box Butte Reservoir, Dawes Co (Rosche 1982, Bray et al 1986).

7 Aug-8 Sep 2000 first alternate Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2000b)

11-12 Aug 2013 adult basic Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co (Silcock 2013b).

FallOct 22, 24, 24 <<<>>> Nov 21, 21, 21

There are about 70 reports, most documented, and most in the period 2-24 Nov.

Earlier dates are 8-19 Oct 1980 Lake Minatare, Scotts Bluff Co, 16 Oct 1999 Lake Alice, Scotts Bluff Co, and 17-27 Oct 2017 Douglas Co.

Later dates are 23 Nov 1996 Douglas Co, 29 Nov 2009 Cedar and Knox Cos, 6 Dec 1997 Swanson Reservoir, Hitchcock Co (Brogie 1998), 7 Dec 2017 Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co (Dunning,,, 9 Dec 1986 Lake North, Platte Co (Williams 1987), and an adult basic at Lake McConaughy 14 Dec 2002.

Fall occurrences in Nebraska are consistent with records in neighboring states, suggesting that some fall migrants drift south inland from their arctic breeding grounds en route to wintering areas along the Pacific Coast. Spring migrants presumably move up the Pacific coast and fly a more direct route inland to breeding areas.

  • High counts: 4 in Scotts Bluff Co 18 Nov 1999 and 3 at Lake Minatare 13-18 Nov 1999.

Winter: Most Interior records are for late fall and early winter (Russell 2002), and so occurrences into Jan may not be unexpected given open water. There are two records of birds attempting to overwinter, both at Lake McConaughy:

2-15 Jan 1998 first basic Lake McConaughy (Dinsmore 1999, Brogie 1999)

9 Jan 1999 first basic Lake McConaughy (Dinsmore 1999, Jorgensen 2001).

Comments: Arctic Loon, which was previously lumped with Pacific Loon as one species, has been documented on several occasions along the West Coast and as close as Colorado (Leukering and Semo 2004).  Observers should closely scrutinize any putative Pacific Loon in Nebraska due to the possibility of occurrence of Arctic Loon.


Photograph (top) of a Pacific Loon at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 24 Oct 2009 by Joel G. Jorgensen.

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 7th ed.  Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 1997. 1996 (Eighth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 65: 115-126.

Brogie, M.A. 1998. 1997 (Ninth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 66: 147-159.

Brogie, M.A. 1999. 1998 (Tenth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 67: 141-152.

Dinsmore, S.J. 1999. Two winter records of Pacific Loons at Lake McConaughy. NBR 67: 16-17.

Gubanyi, J.G. 1996. 1995 (Seventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 64: 132-138.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2001. 1999 (Eleventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 69: 85-91.

Leukering, T., and L.S. Semo. 2004. The 37th report of the Colorado Bird Records Committee. Colorado Birds 38: 73-88.

Mollhoff, W.J. 1987. First report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 55: 79-85.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Russell, R.W. 2002. Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica). The Birds of North America.

Silcock, W.R. 2000a. Summer Field Report, June and July 2000. NBR 68: 106-126.

Silcock, W.R. 2000b. Fall Field Report, August-September 2000. NBR 68: 142-176.

Silcock, W.R. 2001. Summer Field Report, June and July 2001.  NBR 69: 106-132.

Silcock, W.R. 2003. Summer Field Report, June-July 2003. NBR 71: 106-127.

Silcock, W.R. 2006. Summer Field Report, June-July 2006. NBR 74: 78-95.

Silcock, W.R. 2008. Spring Field Report, Mar-May 2008. NBR 76: 50-71.

Silcock, W.R. 2010. Spring Field Report, Mar 2010 to May 2010. NBR 78: 38-62.

Silcock, W.R. 2013a. Spring Field Report, Mar 2013 to May 2013. NBR 81: 50-79.

Silcock, W.R. 2013b. Fall Field Report, August-November 2013. NBR 81: 134-160.

Silcock, W.R. 2014. Spring Field Report, Mar 2014 to May 2014. NBR 82: 46-73.

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 1998. Spring Field Report, March to May 1998. NBR 66: 30-55.

Williams, F. 1982. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 36: 992-995.

Williams, F. 1987. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 41: 297-300.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 29 Dec 2020