Great Northern Diver

Gavia immer (Brünnich, 1764) ND GRNDI 40
Family: Gaviiformes > Gaviidae

Great Northern Diver, Liz Cutting

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.


Great Northern Diver identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Great Northern Diver.

related video

Identifying winter divers

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.


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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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.




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

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


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


Wintering Great Northern Divers linger into spring, supplemented by spring passage, and occasional birds remain into summer, with return migration from September.

Weekly occurence of Great Northern Diver from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Great Northern Diver, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Muir-bhuachaille
Welsh: Trochydd Mawr
Catalan: calàbria grossa
Czech: potáplice lední
Danish: Islom
Dutch: IJsduiker
Estonian: jääkaur
Finnish: amerikanjääkuikka
French: Plongeon huard
German: Eistaucher
Hungarian: jeges búvár
Icelandic: Himbrimi
Irish: Lóma Mór
Italian: Strolaga maggiore
Latvian: melngalvas gargale
Lithuanian: ledinis naras
Norwegian: Islom
Polish: (nur) lodowiec
Portuguese: mobelha-grande
Slovak: potáplica velká
Slovenian: ledni slapnik
Spanish: Colimbo grande
Swedish: svartnäbbad islom
Folkname: Embergoose

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