BIRDS OF ICELAND : Gavia stellata, red-throated diver

Gavia stellata; red-throated divers are breeders on Iceland. They can be found during the breeding season near lakes where they build nests along the banks and on islands. Like most of diving birds their swimming attitude/position is rather low in the water level (compare for example the - diver - cormorant to the - non-diver - swan in swimming on the water: the swans are much more "on top of the water", the cormorant is "more sunk in the water") The red-throated diver has the red throat only during spring/summer. In winter the throat becomes white just as most of the grey neck. Top parts turn from brownish (just like the vertical black and white stripes over the spinal region of the neck) to black with white spots. Another common diver on Iceland is the great northern diver (Gavia immer). It obviously lacks the red throat. Very characteristically, the great northern also differs in having black and white top backs in summer with a spot of black and white lines on the otherwise black neck. The winter cloak is much like that of the red-throated diver but strangely their backs are more brownish than black with less white spots. The size of the great northern is about 75cm whereas the red-throated is about 55cm. Most red-throated divers migrate to the coastal regions of Europe but some stay. Great northern divers can also move to European coasts. It is interesting to note though that this bird breeds only in the America's and Iceland! Red-throated divers however, breed also in Scandinavia and northern Russia.

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A brief introduction to Iceland birds
Text & Photographs by Dick Vuijk
- unless stated otherwise


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