Audio Call

Wild Harris

Red-throated Diver

Red Throated Diver 1 CReddick.jpg(Photo: Cliff Reddick)

From a distance Red-throated Divers can look like ducks, but when seen at close range it is possible to see that they have very streamlined bodies for moving under the water and their bills come to a sharp dagger like point for catching fish. They have a bright red iris and during the breeding season they have a distinctive red neck. They are unusual looking birds and with the smooth appearance of their head and neck they can look almost snake-like.

Red-throated divers spend most of the year at sea only venturing onto fresh water lochs during the breeding season but even then they usually make several flights to the sea each day to feed. They nest at the edge of small boggy lochans with flat edges. Divers are elegant birds in flight and in the water but they are extremely clumsy on land, only venturing on to the land to nest. Even then they build their nests as close to the water as possible so they only have a short distance to walk. Unfortunately, because they nest so close to the water’s edge their nests are susceptible to flooding after heavy rain and many breeding attempts fail for this reason.

When they have young they can be seen frequently flying between their small breeding lochs on the moor and their feeding grounds at sea or on the larger lochs. They have a characteristic gaggling call which can be heard as they pass overhead.

During the summer red-throated divers are the most likely diver species to be seen on Harris but in the winter Great-northern and Black-throated Divers can also be seen feeding at sea. Red-throated Divers are smaller than Great-northern and Black-throated divers and can be told apart by their more slender and slightly up-turned bill.

Loch Langavat and The Bays area are the best areas to see Red-throated Divers during the summer. During the winter they can be seen anywhere along the coastline but the Sound of Harris is a particularly good area for them.

Red Throated Diver 2 CReddick.jpg(Photo: Cliff Reddick)