Gavia arctica (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Gaviiformes > Gaviidae
Although only a monochrome bird, the Black-throated Diver in summer has exquisitely patterned black, white and grey plumage.
Breeding Black-throated Divers are found in north-west Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, inhabiting large lochs preferably with small islets for nesting. In winter Black-throated Divers are present in small numbers around much of Britain and Ireland's coastal waters.
Divers have their legs and feet set well back and find movement on land very cumbersome, so their nests are always close to water.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Black-throated Diver
Black-throated Diver identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Black-throated Diver.
Divers in winter can be confusing and difficult to identify. Let this video help you to confidently separate Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Black-throated Diver, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Black-throated Diver has a small breeding population in Scotland, estimated at 215 pairs in 2006. This represents a slight increase of 16% since the previous survey in 1994, with increases occurring throughout the Scottish range (Eaton et al. 2007). A 10% range expansion has also occurred between 1988–91 and 2008–11 (Balmer et al. 2013). An assessment of environmental variables suggests there are many lakes within the range of the species that are suitable but vacant but there is insufficient historical data to assess the medium to long-term population trend (Jackson 2005) and it is therefore unclear whether the population has always been small.
|UK winter population||-16% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
Black-throated Divers are present round much of the coast of Britain in winter, though are virtually absent from Shetland and are scarce around northeast Scotland and Wales. The breeding distribution of Black-throated Divers is confined mainly to north and west Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||218|
|% occupied in breeding season||7.2|
|No. occupied in winter||479|
|% occupied in winter||16|
European Distribution Map
Black-throated Diver's British breeding range has expanded 10% since the 1988–91 Breeding Atlas. Gains are concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the range, though many of these new records refer to single birds or pairs on suitable lochs, rather than confirmed breeding events.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+2.8%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+42.7%|
Black-throated Divers are recorded year-round, though scarce, being reported on only around 1% of complete lists.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Black-throated Diver, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Typical Lifespan||12 years with breeding typically at 3 year|
|Field Codes||2-letter: BV | 5-letter code: BLTDI | Euring: 30|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Black-throated Diver from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
Analysis by Mudge & Talbot (1993) found that breeding productivity was very low and they tentatively suggested that it was too low to maintain a stable population at the time; most failures were attributed to flooding and predation. The provision of rafts to provide safe breeding sites improved breeding productivity by an estimated 44% (Hancock 2000) and hence may have contributed towards the observed recent population increases.
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