Continued from The Loon or Diver and the Appearance of these Birds
Despite their relatively short
wings Loons or Divers are good fliers and can fly at good speed and over
large distances. Their flight is characterized by an outstretched neck,
with the head being kept somewhat lower than the body, and the feet pointing
to the rear over the tail. Loons nearly always both take off
from and land on the water. For the actual take-off they need a long
approach, often of some hundreds of meters. The initial attempt at
taking off frequently fails, the Loon having in these cases to come back
and start another attempt. Once they have taken to the wing
their flight is powerful and they can attain great heights. On occasion
they will rush downward from the sky with a velocity that must be seen
to be appreciated, and this sudden descent is accompanied by a noise for
which those who have witnessed it will agree in thinking that thundering
is too weak an epithet.
Landing is achieved by coming in feet first and
skidding on the surface, while the wings are opened to reduce speed.
Only the small Red-throated Loon is able to take off from and land on the
The Water and Diving
The Diver or Loon has a streamlined body, excellently
adapted to life on water. The short legs are set right at the back at the
body and carry their strong webbed feet, which perfect their propulsion
in and under water.
Loons are are superb divers (hence their alternative
name), who can go to depths of up to 75 meters below the surface and can
remain under water for up to eight minutes. Usually, however, their diving
depth is to only two to ten meters, and they only rarely stay below the
surface for over one minute. The method of diving down in the
water shows hadly any noticeable effort and is carried out with minimal
splashing. Under water they use the feet as propulsion - the wings
are used underwater only rarely to help their movement. As well as
using diving as a way of obtaining food (primarily fish), if a Loon is
scared it will often try to effect its escape by diving.
Their exit from the water is gradual, rather than
the the style of almost jumping which is typical of the Cormorant
and the Grebe. On dry land, Loons move very clumsily. They can not
stand upright for a for long time, but must support themselves with their
chest whilst standing. The legs do not make a waddling movement possible,
but instead they make short, frog-like jumps, which are take a lot of energy
and the birds therefore usually only travel small distances on land.
They can also sometimes slide on their on the chest pushing themselves
with their legs. In spite of the great difficulty of movement, if
they come disturbed, they can move on land for considerable distances if
they feel that they are in danger.
They sleep in the water, preferring to take these
rests away from the land in deeper waters where they will be relatively
safer. While they sleep, they do not hold their head under a wing, but
intead stretch their neck out along their back.