Sep 04 2008

In the Land of the Loons

Published by at 7:43 am under Water and Shore

Common loons breed on northern lakes and winter at the ocean.  Acadia National Park has both lakes and ocean so it's a great place to see them, especially since they're migrating right now. 

At this time of year most of them are still in the beautiful breeding plumage shown here. 

Sometimes at dawn I hear them call in a ghostly tremolo to make contact or warn of danger.  I've never heard them wail.

Loons eat only fish so they're an early indicator of water quality problems.  Sadly, this means they die of avian botulism on the Great Lakes and slowly succumb to mercury poisoning deposited in our water by coal-fired power plant emissions.

Truly a water bird, loons can barely walk on land because their legs are positioned for diving.  Occasionally they mistake a wet road or parking lot for a lake and land on it, but if they do they can't take off again because they need a long watery runway.  A loon in this situation must be rescued or it will die. 

Years ago during fall migration, a loon landed on top of Laurel Mountain in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and was found in the woods by a hunter.  The hunter took it to a vet who released it on a nearby lake.  That was one lucky bird.

All's well that ends well.

(photo by Kim Steininger)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “In the Land of the Loons”

  1. Jon 05 Sep 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Though I’ve never actually seen a loon in person, I was aware of there unusual leg anatomy. My high school biology teacher once related a story about her encounter with a loon to my class. She had been at a lake somewhere and saw a bird standing near the bank. Apparently she was not aware of their uniquely structured legs and mistakenly thought that this bird had been injured. she then tried to help this bird only to be attacked by it. She only learned later that Loon legs are supposed to look the way they do.

  2. Roberton 09 May 2009 at 4:44 pm

    we found a loon in ontario today on a road near mitchell

    I am a single parent man and have a heart
    for animals

    its feet were bleeding some because of it trying to fly accross pavement

    I put it in a cold tub full of water and the bleeding stopped

    but now its content to swim

    I am going to feed it fresh water sardines and let it go
    in the lake tomorrow

    its a very very aggresive bird

    IT WOULD HURT a child if a child tried to pick one up

    KEEP children away from DOWNED LOONS


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