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Frequently Asked Questions about Loons
How much does a loon weigh?
The average weight of a Common Loon in the Great Lakes area is 10 pounds.
How much does a loon eat?
Loons eat approximately 2 pounds of fish EACH DAY.
How fast can a loon fly?
In flight, loons flap their wings about 200 times per minute and reach speeds of approximately 70 miles per hour.
How small of a lake will a loon use?
Minimum lake size for nesting loons is reportedly 10 acres, but on rare occasions loon nests have been found on smaller lakes.
How long do loons live?
The average age of a Common Loon at first nesting is 6 years. A loon can live for approximately 25 to 30 years.
What do loons look like?
The common loon measures about 30 inches from head to tail, has a 5-foot wingspan, and weighs 6 to 13 lbs. During the breeding season, the loon has a black iridescent head, red eyes, and a white necklace. Its back and wings are black with white spots, and its underside is white. Loons float low on the water and dive frequently.
What are the different loon calls?
Adult loons give four basic calls: wail, tremolo, yodel, and hoot.
- The yodel is a territorial call given only by male loons. The call begins with three notes that rise slowly and are followed by several undulating phrases. It communicates to any loons in the area I am a male loon, I’m on my territory, and I’m prepared to defend it.
- The wail resembles a wolf howl. Individuals use this call to locate other loons. If you listen closely, you will hear a wailing loon saying, where are you?
- The tremolo sounds like a quavering laugh. It is typically used when loons are disturbed or excited. A variation of the tremolo is the flight call, which is often given over lakes and is a loon’s way of requesting clearance for landing. If a loon on the lake responds with a yodel, the one in the air usually flies on to the next lake.
- The hoot is a soft, one-note call loons use in close quarters to call to chicks, mates, or even other loons in a social flock. In social groups, the hoot can be thought of as the loon’s way of saying hi.
Are loons protected by law?
Yes. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects loons and all migratory non-game birds from harassment. In Wisconsin, please report intentional loon harassment to the DNR at 1-800-TIP-WDNR.
Are there different species of loons?
There are five species of loons: the Common Loon, Arctic Loon, Pacific Loon, Red-throated Loon, and Yellow-billed Loon. Only the Common Loon nests in the lower 48 states. The other four species nest in Canada, Greenland, Alaska, northern Europe, and Russia.
How did the loon get its name?
The scientific name is Gavia immer. Gavia refers to the seabirds and immer comes from the Swedish root emmer or blackened ashes of fire. The common name “loon” likely comes from either the English word lumme meaning lummox or awkward person or the Scandinavian word lum meaning lame or clumsy. Either way, the name refers to the loon’s poor ability to walk on land.
How many loons live in the Midwest?
Wisconsin lakes are the summer home to approximately 4,000 adult loons. Minnesota has about 12,050 loons, and Michigan has more than 650.
Do loons mate for life?
Banding records show that loons often return to the same lake each year. However, mates probably don’t winter or migrate together and return to the same lake independently. Loons do occasionally switch mates and are more attached to their lake than to each other.
Where do loons nest?
Loons build their nests at the water’s edge because they have difficulty walking on land. Loons prefer to nest on islands and in backwaters protected from wave action. Often, they use the same nest site each year.
How many eggs do loons lay?
Most loon nests have two eggs, although some may have one or, rarely, three eggs. Loons may lay a second clutch of eggs if the first nest is destroyed. Loon eggs are 3 inches long with an olive green shell with dark spots.
Why do chicks ride on their parents’ backs?
Chicks ride on their parents’ backs during the first three weeks of life. Here, the conserve energy, stay warm and are protected from predators like northern pike and bald eagles.
Do loons move their chicks across land from one lake to another?
Yes, sometimes adult loons will lead or call their chicks from their nest lake to a forage lake. This seems to happen most often when the nest is on a small lake close to a much larger lake where the adults prefer to feed.
What are the common predators on loon eggs and chicks?
Loon eggs are eaten by raccoons, otter, mink, gulls, crows, ravens, and eagles. Loon chicks are most often eaten by eagles, muskie, northern pike, and snapping turtles.
How long does it take for a loon to reach adulthood?
Loons acquire their full black-and-white plumage at about three years of age, but often don’t begin nesting until they are five.
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