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Black-throated Diver

A species associated with northern Scotland but a small number are seen off the Dorset coast each winter 

Photograph by: 
Internet Open Source

Black-throated diver (Gavia arctica) are birds of the large natural harbours here in Dorset; almost invariably seen in sheltered waters or whilst in flight. They winter here in small numbers having bred in north western areas of Scotland as well as in the northern regions of Europe. When swimming on the water's surface some distance from shore they can be hard to spot and, even when seen, can be hard to identify and be separated from other diver species which is why it is when they take to flight identification becomes easier; even then telling them apart from other diver species can be a challenge to the new observer. 

Black-throated diver are reported in most weeks from week 46 at the beginning of November right through until week 18 in mid- May. November through until March would seem the most likely time for them to be reported.

As the distribution map shows, virtually any coastal site can report occasional black-throated diver passage but undoubtedly Portland Harbour has the most records of them and there are also frequent reports of them passing by Portland Bill.

It is not going to be easy adding black-throated diver to your Dorset list! Watch for news of one being seen in Portland Harbour and head there before it's too late. 



Common Name Black-throated Diver
Scientific Name Gavia arctica
Species Group Birds Grebes and divers
Status Scarce
Interest Level
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
Look for

A sleek cormorant-like bird with pied plumage

Identification Notes
  • Has a rounded top to the head whereas the Gt Northern diver has a flatter head
  • Larger and with a thicker neck that the red-throated diver
  • More likely to be seen in a harbour than the red-throated diver which presers open sea
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Grebes and divers