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Written by Menno van Duijn and Wouter Teunissen.
Divers (or loons, as the Americans call them) can be seen in the Netherlands along the coast or sometimes in large inland lakes in the period September to May. Getting good views is often difficult. Low-light conditions and similar looking plumages make identification even harder. But help is on the way!
To help you with identification issues we picked some videos of swimming and flying birds. Not of birds closeby, but instead we chose videos of distant birds, which are probably a better representation of the views you will get in the field. With every video we give some identification tips. Something on behaviour, good field characters or differences among similar species.
If you miss characters, or find mistakes, please let us know!
How to identify divers from other bird species:
Make sure you are really looking at a diver. When flying or swimming in the distance divers may look quite similar to some other bird species. Think about grebes (all grebes have white patches on the upper wings, divers have none), geese and cormorants (the large diver species have extended feet, white underparts and contrasting neck).
More info about Diver identification can be found in this British Birds article.
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
This is the most common diver in the Netherlands. It is mainly found on salt water but could be found on lakes and canals too (often birds in poor health conditions). The Red-throated diver is the smallest of the genus and has the whitest look. Birds in flight often put their heads up and down, this a unique character within the genus.
On the water
Black-throated Diver or Arctic Diver (Gavia arctica)
More scarce than Red-throated Diver and more often found on fresh water. Has a darker appearance and can easily be mistaken with juvenile/first winter Red-throated Diver.
(no flight video)
On the water
Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer)
Scarce wintering bird, which occurs both on fresh- and salt water. In the Netherlands it occurs relatively often on large freshwater lakes. The single largest of all divers with an impressive appearance.
On the water;
Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii)
Very rare winter visitor. Largest of all divers. Confusion is only possible with Great Northern Diver.
Pacific Diver (Gavia pacifica)
Extremely rare in Europe, not yet recorded in the Netherlands. Birds look very similar to Arctic diver. In flight almost impossible to separate from Arctic Diver.