Loon Adaptations: The Head
Streamlined for Diving with a Fishing Spear at the Tip

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  • Loon heads help give their bodies a torpedo shape for smooth, fast diving.
  • Their powerful, spear-shaped beak can stab or snap up fish quickly and strongly. It can also be used as a tool to scare enemies, or even to stab them.
  • Their eye is brilliant red during the breeding season. This can be seen from a big distance, giving loons a strong visual territorial display.
  • The eye is adapted for good underwater vision year round, whether it's brilliant red in the breeding season or dull reddish-brown during the rest of the year.
  • Big mouth at the base of the beak allows loons to swallow their slippery prey whole. They manipulate fish with their beaks to swallow them head first.
  • A salt gland between the eyes can filter extra salt from their blood so loons can gulp down fish in the ocean without getting sick. The salt gland shrinks when loons return to fresh water in spring, and swells up the moment they taste salt in autumn.
  • The head feathers feel like the thickest, softest velvet, and are so dense that water doesn't seep through, even during fast dives. These feathers keep loons dry and keep their brains warm even when swimming amid ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Black and white neck pattern may serve as part of the loon's display, and may help it appear like sparkling water.