Red-throated diverRed-throated diver

Latin name: Gavia stellata

Gaelic name: Learga ruadh

Length: 53 – 69cm Wingspan:106 – 116cm

Where: On Loch Long and Loch Eil in winter; on some small inland lochs in summer

When: Most likely to see them at the coast in winter

Black-throated diver

Latin name: Gavia arctica

Gaelic name: Learga dubh

Length: 58 – 73cm Wingspan: 110 – 130cm

Where: On Loch Long and Loch Eil in winter

When: Most likely to see them at the coast in winter

These enigmatic birds spend most of their lives on water, and in winter you can often see small rafts of them haunting the coastal waters of Loch Long and Loch Eil.Black-throated diver

In summer small numbers of red-throated divers breed on islets in the high lochans of the National Park, the only time they venture out of the water. They are as ungainly on land as they are graceful in the water, tottering to the nests that they make as close to the shoreline as possible. The downside of this tactic is that summer floods can wash away the nests and the eggs with them. Black-throated divers prefer larger lochs for their nests.

It’s easier to tell the two species apart in their summer plumage. The red-throats acquire a ruddy-brown patch on their dove-grey necks, while the black-throats look military smart with their black and zebra-striped necks. At other times of year it’s harder to distinguish them, though once heard the red-throated diver’s wailing call is unmistakeable. This has earned the bird its northern nickname of ‘rain goose’. People say the bird only calls in this way when it is going to rain – but perhaps that’s a pretty good bet in northern Scotland!

Hear the calls and find out more at:


Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods