Sleek and streamlined on the water and with strange, wailing display calls, the red-throated diver brings a touch of feathered summer magic to small lochs and pools along Scotland’s western edge, in peatlands and in the North Isles.
What to look for
Red-throats can be very obvious in flight, when they often make loud ‘kuk-kuk-kuk’ calls. They have a gangly profile against the sky, with long neck and wings - not compact, like a duck. On the water, they dive from the surface without a jump (and sometimes scarcely a ripple).
Although they nest beside small peaty lochans, red-throats usually feed at sea, visiting sheltered bays and sea lochs in search of small fish.
When and where to see
Red-throats are in their breeding areas between late March and late August or early September. In autumn and winter, they move to coastal waters, anywhere from Scotland to France.
Shetland has the biggest concentration of breeding red-throated divers, with Foula, Unst and Yell particular hotspots. In winter, inshore areas along the southern shore of the Moray Firth and down the east coast - especially Aberdeenshire - are good for red-throats.
For more information see the RSPB's red-throated diver page.