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Red-throated Diver

A winter visitor from the far north occasionally seen in sheltered waters along the Dorset coast

Photograph by: 
Internet Open Source

Red-throated diver (Gavia stellata) are birds of the open sea here in Dorset; almost invariably seen off shore and usually 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. 

Red-throated diver are reported in most weeks from week 44 at the beginning of November right through until week 19 towards the end of May and there are very occasional reports during the summer months too. 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 red-throated diver passage but undoubtedly Portland Bill has the most records of them with one or two passing by the Bill most days.

Adding red-throated diver to your Dorset list is not going to be easy! Short of spending a winter's day watching the sea off Portland Bill it is going to be very much a chance encounter that will bring success.



Common Name Red-throated Diver
Scientific Name Gavia stellata
Species Group Birds Grebes and divers
Status Scarce
Interest Level
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
Look for

A sleek cormorant-;like bird some distance offshore on open sea 

Identification Notes
  • More likely to be seen open sea than the other two diver species
  • Often only visible when they fly
  • Smaller than the other two diver species
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