Black-throated diver Gavia arctica

The black-throated diver is a large waterbird: larger than the great crested grebe but smaller than the cormorant in size. They look smart in their summer plumage, with a black throat, silky grey head and neck, and a black and white-chequered back. In the winter, black-throated divers turn a very dark grey above and white below, with an obvious white patch on their rear flanks. They have a straight, dagger-like bill.


Black-throated divers nest on small pools and lochs in the far north of Scotland. In the winter, they can be seen on the sea around most coasts where they feed on fish. They also sometimes nest or overwinter on big lakes and reservoirs. Most black-throated divers search for food alone, although some small groups do gather during winter to feed together.


  • Length: 53-58cm
  • Weight: 1.6kg


Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


Can be seen on most UK coastlines, but more common in the north-west of Scotland including the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.

When to see

January – December


  • The black-throated diver is known in America as the ‘Arctic loon’.
  • Black-throated divers can fish at depths of up to six metres, but they usually only stay underwater for less than a minute.
  • Although they are excellent swimmers, black-throated divers cannot walk well on land because their legs are too far back on their body.

Common name

Black-throated diver

Species name

Gavia arctica

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Handa island or Ben Mor Coigach.

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