Scroll down to bottom of page to see more details and discussion of this bird.
This loon was photographed (not by me) in mid November 2004; it
is clearly a G. pacifica/arctica type, but can it be assigned
to a species - and WHY?:
crop below to highlight apparent dark band on undertail
This bird was photographed by Paolo Casali, and the bird was found by
Cesare Dell'Acqua and Antonello Turri in the Ticino River, at Somma
Lombardo, near Varese, in northern Italy on 14th November 2004 and was present until the about the 25th.
Prior to providing the location details, I received seven private replies, in addition to the two public responses I
saw on ID-FRONTIERS; I applaud those who went public, as it takes courage
to "hang yourself out there" on such birds.
Of the responses, all but one favored Pacific Loon, all of those siting the lack of
a white flank patch, plus variously mentioning the apparent suggestion of a
thin chin-strip, and/or the head and bill shape, and or the bill
posture. Even the sharp observer who still preferred Arctic wondered if
they could ever lack the white flank patch? We know that on a lone
view/pic of a bird sat low in the water, the patch might not be visible -
but these multiple pics seem to clearly show the ABSENCE of such a patch.
Most of the responders are VERY experienced birders, whose opinions I place
great stock in. I share the majority view that had I found this bird in North America I
would have called it a Pacific and moved on.
I take full
responsibility for the "ruse" of not being clear where the bird was
located. Despite our best attempts, we are all influenced by the location, and
I felt that this was such an interesting example, that the best way to
share it and learn from it would be to be deliberately vague about its location;
I apologise to those who feel duped.
Anyway, that said, either the ID of Gavia pacifica VS G. arctica is harder
than I (we?) thought, or this is a (not unexpected) first record of Pacific
Loon for the Western Palearctic. Obviously, we should default to the
former conclusion, but I would appreciate more input on this bird, and its
implication for Loon/Diver ID on both sides of the Atlantic - thanks.