Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Pacific Loon - Gavia pacifica
GAVIIDAE Members:
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments This Arctic breeding species winters essentially along the Pacific coast. For unknown reasons, the inshore ocean off Figure Eight Island and Wrightsville Beach, both in New Hanover, is "the" place to find a Pacific Loon in the state. Birders who carefully scrutinize the loons along the coast in this region can sometimes be rewarded with a sighting of this species, though it normally takes a good scope and glassy ocean conditions -- at best just one or two days a week in winter -- to be sure it is a Pacific. Because loons tend to dive often, and seldom come within 200 yards of the beach, obtaining recognizable photos of the species is challenging! Away from this small area, it is a very difficult-to-find species along the inshore ocean. There are only a few records from brackish or fresh water in the state.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
state_status
fed_status
S_rank
G_rank
Coastal Plain Winter visitor along the coast, and a winter resident in a local area; many dozen records, greatly increasing in recent decades. Very rare along the coast north of New Hanover, but locally rare, wintering annually, along the coast of that county; however, no records yet for adjacent Brunswick. Several records from just inside inlets, but no records from fresh water areas in the province. Mainly mid-Nov to late Mar; a few summer records. Peak counts: 4, Figure Eight Island, 26 Dec 2002; 4, Wrightsville Beach, 4 Jan 2003; 4, Wrightsville Beach, 21 Dec 2013.
Piedmont Accidental. Two records: one at L. Tahoma (McDowell) on 6 May 2007, in alternate plumage [Chat 71:84 link]; and one at Lake Townsend (Guilford) from 18 Nov - 3 Dec 2008 [Chat 73:12 link], 73:56).
Mountains Accidental. A single record: one photographed at Lake Julian (Buncombe) on 5-6 Jan 2012* [Chat 76:53 link].
Finding Tips To look for this species, you must be prepared to carefully scrutinize loons on the ocean, with a scope. You will need rather calm seas, and preferably the sun at your back. This is a difficult species to identify, not only from Common and Red-throated loons, but also from the closely-related Arctic Loon. Thus, be extremely careful before you report a Pacific Loon. The best area to look is from Wrightsville Beach, especially from a pier; unfortunately, Figure Eight Island is privately owned and is therefore difficult to access.
* to **
Attribution LeGrand[2016-09-28], LeGrand[2015-06-13], LeGrand[2014-08-12]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Gavia pacifica