Great Northern Diver
Gavia immer (Brünnich, 1764)
Family: Gaviiformes > Gaviidae
This large heavy-billed seabird is a winter visitor to shallow coastal waters around Britain & Ireland, typically arriving during October and November.
The only European breeding population is located in Iceland, although the species has a large Nearctic breeding population that stretches from the Aleutians across Canada and on to Greenland.
Typically around 4,000 Great Northern Divers are thought to winter around our shores, with the north-west of our region hosting the greatest numbers, a pattern that reflects the global distribution of the species. Great Northern Divers wintering in the UK begin to return to their breeding grounds during April.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Great Northern Diver
Great Northern Diver identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Great Northern 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 Great Northern 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.
|UK winter population||+86% increase (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
Great Northern Divers are recorded in coastal waters around Britain & Ireland as well as occasionally appearing on inland wetlands. The largest concentrations during this Bird Atlas 2007–11 were found in the Northern Isles, Outer Hebrides, northwest Scotland south to Argyll, western and southern Ireland. The one mapped breeding record relates to a bird paired with a Black-throated Diver for several consecutive seasons up to 2008.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||1|
|% occupied in breeding season||0.03|
|No. occupied in winter||805|
|% occupied in winter||27|
European Distribution Map
Since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas there has been a 39% increase in the number of 10-km squares occupied by Great Northern Divers in winter. In parts of northwest Scotland, apparent gains may be a consequence of improved coverage.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||-87.5%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+46.7%|
Wintering Great Northern Divers linger into spring, supplemented by spring passage, and occasional birds remain into summer, with return migration from September.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Great Northern Diver, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
|Field Codes||2-letter: ND | 5-letter code: GRNDI | Euring: 40|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
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