Gavia immer
    Classification of bird species can be very cumbersome. Due to the great complexity and many characteristics of bird species, some species have many categorical levels such as subphylum, suborder, superfamily, subclass, and subspecies. Gavia immer, however has a very simple classification. The common loon is considered the “oldest living bird,” or first classified in the American Ornithologist Union Check-list of North American Birds according to Loon Magic. 

Domain: Eukarya
    Gavia immer fits into the domain eukarya because of its multicellularity, membrane bound organelles, and the presence of eukaryotic cells that possess a distinct nucleus.

Kingdom: Animalia
    The kingdom Animalia tells us that Gavia immer is classified as an animal, just as the name implies. The kingdom Animalia tells us that the organism is heterotrophic, bilaterally symmetrical and is motile at some stage in the life cycle.

Phylum: Chordata
    Chordates have specific characteristics as well. Vertebrates are a subgroup of this phylum and are classified by a post anal tail, notochord, and pharyngeal arches that connect the pharynx to the exterior of the animal.

Class: Aves
    Birds are grouped under the class aves. Gavia immer belongs to this class because it has feathers for flight and insulation, is warm blooded, has a distinct bill and produces external eggs.

Order: Gaviiformes
    This order describes aquatic diving birds with webbed feet and pointed beaks.

Family: Gaviidae
    This family is unique to loons. Loons have characteristics such as pointed beaks and wings, and thick plumage that is usually dark black or gray and contains only one genus, Gavia.

Genus: Gavia
    This genus contains only loon species. There are five different loon species, including Gavia stellata, Gavia adamsii, Gavia immer, Gavia arctica and Gavia pacifica.

Species: immer   
     The species immer is one of four loon species, classifying the common loon.
This name, immer, stems from a Swedish word emmer. Emmer literally means “the blackened ashes of fire.” Common loons have very unique characteristics such as a fiery red eye, sturdy beak, and smooth, black feathers that aid in classification.

Common Name:
    Loons are not only classified by appearance but behavior as well. The common name “loon” comes from a Scandinavian word, lom, which means clumsy. Loons are very graceful birds in the water, but on land tend to stumble. Another common name for the loon is “the great northern diver” because of its impressive diving abilities.


The phylogenetic trees to the right from the Tree of Life web project, are based on morphological differences between different orders of ‘water birds’. Loons are classified under the order Gaviiformes, as mentioned above. The second phylogenetic tree is a morphological break down of the five species of loon.

The phylogenetic tree to the left shows the relative relationship between different water bird species based on DNA sequencing of the 12S rRNA and 16S rRNA genes.

If you are interested in learning more about penguins, a close relative of the loon visit and view the page on the Adelie Penguine!

To learn more about other organisms visit!

Now let’s head to the lake and look at the habitat of this fantastic creature!

Shoe bill





Common Loon

Red-Throated Loon


Calif. Condor

And. Condor