Looney for Loons

Do you have a place from your childhood that as an adult you long for when you’re in need of comfort?

For me, that place is New London, New Hampshire on Little Lake Sunapee. It was on this lake where I learned the peace of nature. The peace of steady rainfall, the languid lake waves, the scent of musty lakeside cabins, the pop of a morning fire, and the wail of a loon.

My grandmother taught me about loons during time spent at Little Lake Sunapee. She’s the reason I get goosebumps when I hear the call of a loon.

A loon’s call burrows into your soul. It carries a mournful tone so heart-wrenching, it becomes beautiful.

On days when I need comfort, I think about the call of a loon. I let the song wash over me and calm my nerves.

I decided to pursue this love for loons by doing a little research about them and how to protect them. Enjoy!

Fun Facts about Loons

There are five types of loons:
  • Common loon
  • Yellow-billed
  • Red-throated
  • Pacific
  • Arctic

The most known loon is of course the common loon. This is the loon that is the mascot for the New England states; it’s the loon pictured on tin camping mugs and vacation sweatshirts bought from small Adirondack towns.

The loon has been thriving on Earth for 35 million years. There are fossils of loons dated to the Eocene making them one of the oldest lineages of birds on Earth.

The loon is a resilient bird, considering they are one of the only types of birds that cannot walk on land. The average common loon can live for 20-30 years.

An adult loon can stay underwater for 45 seconds to 2 minutes while swimming or fishing. They eat only fish and can eat two pounds in one day. They reside in the top of the aquatic food chain when on lakes.

Because they are at the top of the food chain, they are the “go-to” species for understanding the health of an aquatic ecosystem. Loons are the alarm bell for if an aquatic ecosystem is struggling.

A loon with a furrowed brow. Photo sourced from: https://www.adkloon.org/displays
Loons also have some very cute fun facts:
  • When a group of 10 or more loons gather in a circle it’s called a circle dance
  • Loons can furrow their brow
  • Penguin dancing is when a loon stands and flaps their wings in the water
    • This is a sign the loon feels threatened
  • There are six different loon calls
    • Check out the video below to hear the haunting calls

Threats to the Loon population

Loons are not on the endangered list; however, there are many threats to their populations and most of those threats are caused by humans.

Below are just a few:

  • Human disturbance
  • Wildlife
  • Climate change

Human disturbance:

The first thing to keep in mind when protecting loons is personal space. When observing loons, try to stay at least 100 feet away. That distance includes from nests, babies, and adults.

Another prominent issue that humans can fix is fishing gear. When fishing, typically a lead weight is used on the line. If the line breaks or the fish gets away, so does the lead weight. Consequently, loons eat the fish and the lead weight. The lead poisons the loon.

According to the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation:

“Research by the Loon Preservation Committee and Dr. Mark Pokras of Tufts Wildlife Clinic found that lead poisoning from ingestion of lead sinkers…accounts for a significant portion of the adult loons found dead in New Hampshire”

photo sourced from: https://www.adkloon.org/threats-to-loons

In addition to fishing tackle, loons also get tangled in fishing line.

Another human disturbance that is deeply impacting loons is shoreline development. As more lake shorelines become developed, there are less nesting area options for loons.

Loons are private animals, so they tend to stay far away from humans. Moreover, they are not able to walk on land so nests are always directly on shorelines. If you are looking to build a home on an empty shoreline, consider buying a house that is already built and changing it to match your needs. Taking this initiative is a huge help to all wildlife.

Lastly, oil spills are a great danger to migrating loons. Oil spills need to be prevented and when accidents happen they need to be cleaned up immediately.

Wildlife:

Predators to loons include

  • Bears
  • Snapping Turtles
  • Large fish (can eat loon babies)
  • Eagles
  • Large birds
  • Other loons (loons are aggressive animals and tend to have territorial fights)

Climate Change:

Climate change has created numerous obstacles for the loon populations. One of the most prominent issues from climate change is fluctuating water levels. Loons make their nests along shorelines.

If water levels drop and the nest is too high above the water, the loons may abandon the nest and the babies inside. Flooding from unexpected and quick rainfalls due to climate change also poses a threat to nesting loons.

During springtime in the New England area, heavy and fast rainfall occurs. This is when the lake water is still cold, so when the water floods loon nests, the eggs get chilled and die. As you can see in the video above, loon nests are vulnerable to quick-rising water levels.


How Humans can Help Loons

There are a few ways humans can directly help loons!

  1. Never go within 100 feet of adult or baby loons
  2. Replace your lead fishing weights with lead-free alternatives
    • Go HERE to learn more about this step
  3. Clean up fishing line, whether yours or not, clean it up and dispose of it properly
  4. Rather than building a new home on a lake shoreline, think about fixing up an existing structure to preserve untouched land
  5. If a loon happens to make a nest near your home, notify your local loon conservation center to learn about next steps

Ways you can help the environment and indirectly help loons:

  1. The classic–choose to walk, ride your bike, or carpool places to preserve gas consumption
  2. Invest in renewable energy practices
  3. Say NO to single use plastic–plastic straws at restaurants, plastic utensils, plastic dinnerware, food packaged in plastic
  4. Vote into office representatives who do not support big oil companies

To learn more about loons, check out the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation. They have loads of amazing information and resources!

I hope you enjoyed this article about loons, the only water bird I love. Comment the animal that brings you comfort.

Peace out girl scouts!

5 thoughts on “Looney for Loons

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