AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851)
Black-Throated Diver [Arctic Loon]
[Pl. 346] London: 1836. Hand-coloured engraving with aquatint and etching by R. Havell, 1836, paper watermarked "J. Whatman/1836" Sheet size: 25 7/8 x 39 1/4 inches.
From the first edition of "The Birds of America."
A masterly composition capturing the bold abstract patterning of the male bird's plumage and somehow allowing the graceful curves of the Loon to emphasize both the bird's ungainliness out of the water and its elegance when in it.
"No sooner has the foliage of the trees that border our western waters begun to drop and float on the gentle current of the fair Ohio, than the Black-throated Diver makes its appearance there, moving slowly with the stream. The Mississippi, Missouri, and their tributaries, are at the same period supplied with birds. Along our eastern and southern shores they are seen from the end of autumn until spring...This species has almost as powerful a flight as the Great Northern Diver or Loon, and I think shoots through the air with even greater velocity. When flying it moves its wings rapidly and continuously, and has the neck and feet stretched out to their full length...They are equally expert at diving...It is curious to observe how carefully these birds avoid the danger of sudden storms or heavy gales. On such occasions, I have seen Divers at once seek the lee of rocks, islands, or artificial embankments, where they remain in security...At other times, when striving against the tempest, they dive headlong from on wing, and are sure to reappear in the smooth parts which sailors term the trough" (J. J. Audubon, The Birds of America , New York and Philadelphia: 1840-44, vol. VIII, pp.178-179). "Normally, the Arctic loon, which breeds across Arctic North America, spends the winter along the Pacific coast..." (R. T. & V. M. Peterson, Audubon's Birds of America , London, 1981, no.3).
Susanne M. Low, A Guide to Audubon's Birds of America , New Haven & New York: 2002, p.176.