Friday mystery object #107 answer


On Friday I gave you a mystery object chosen by two keen work experience students who were shadowing me as I worked in the collections.

They picked a great specimen, because it has a body-form that has been converged on by several different groups of birds, making it a tricky one to identify:

The bill shape is one that is perfectly suited to seizing fish and crustaceans underwater and the the leg position is ideal for foot-propelled diving (swimming underwater mostly using the feet, rather than the wings).

There are several bird groups that conform to this mode of life, including the cormorants, grebes, darters and divers (or loons). The body size and relatively short neck suggest one bird in particular – the Red-throated Diver (or Loon) Gavia stellata (Pontoppidan, 1763).

Red-throated Diver - Gavia stellata - Lómur by Ómar Runólfsson

Red-throated Diver - Gavia stellata - Lómur by Ómar Runólfsson

These birds are found in the Northern hemisphere, mainly around the Arctic rim. They are the smallest of the divers, overlapping in size with the largest grebes. However, the long body, short neck and uptilted bill orientation make them quite distinctive.

Several of you managed to spot this, so well done to henstridgesjSteven D. Garber, PhD and Jake on some excellent detective work!

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