Minnesota State Bird - Common Loon


Common Loon

(Gavia immer)

The common loon is one of the earth's oldest living bird species. Its name comes from a Norwegian word that means "wild, sad cry." Approximately 12,000 make their homes in Minnesota. Loons are large black-and-white birds with long black bills. Clumsy on land, they are excellent divers, underwater swimmers, and high-speed flyers.

MINNESOTA STATE BIRD: Loon (Gavia immer); adopted 1961.
Statutory citation: Minn. Stat. 1.145

1961 Minn. Laws Chap. 76 (HF79, approved 13 March)
Also previously proposed but not adopted (not necessarily a comprehensive list):
Eastern goldfinch, 1947 (HF239/SF212); 1949 (HF668/SF567)
Loon, 1951 (HF552/SF533)
Mourning dove, 1951 (HF1405)
Pileated woodpecker, 1951 (HF317); 1953 (HF383/SF417)
Scarlet tanager, 1951 (HF278)
Wood duck, 1951 (HF111)
Kingfisher ?
Sources of additional information:
Elizabeth M. Bachmann, "Minnesota's New State Bird, the Loon," Gopher Historian (Fall 1961): 17-22. According to Bachmann, the American (Eastern?) goldfinch was for many years known unofficially as Minnesota's state bird.
1.145 State bird.
Subdivision 1. Loon. The loon, Gavia immer, is the official bird of the state of Minnesota.
Subd. 2. Photograph. A photograph of the loon shall be preserved in the office of the secretary of state.
HIST: 1961 c 76 s 1,2; 1984 c 628 art 1 s 1
Copyright 2002 by the Office of Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota.
Identification Tips
  • Length: 24 inches Wingspan: 58 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Large diving bird with long body that rides low in the water
  • Large bill is straight, tapers to a point, and is held horizontally
  • Feet set far back on body, and trail behind body in flight
  • Upperwings wholly dark in flight
Adult alternate
  • Black bill
  • Black head
  • Black neck with white markings
  • White chest and belly
  • Black back with white checkering and spotting
Adult basic
  • Pale gray bill
  • Gray-brown cap, forehead, nape, hindneck and back
  • White face, eye ring, chin, throat, foreneck and belly
  • Jagged border between white foreneck and dark hindneck
  • Like basic-plumaged adult but often with paler bill and white scalloping on back
Kingdom Animalia -- animals
   Phylum Chordata -- chordates
      Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
         Class Aves -- birds
            Order Ciconiiformes -- albatrosses, alcids, auks, cormorants, diurnal birds of prey, eagles, falconiforms, falcons, flamingos, grebes, gulls, hawks, herons, ibises, loons, osprey, oystercatchers, pelicans, penguins, petrels, plovers, shearwaters, shore birds, storks, totipalmate swimmers, tube-nosed swimmers
               Family Gaviidae -- loons
                  Genus Gavia Forster, 1788 -- loons
                     Species Gavia immer (Brunnich, 1764) -- Colimbo mayor, common loon