Mike Lentz Nature PhotographyIt's all about the light
The Common Loons of North America are seen mostly in the Northern states in summer. They dwell in the fresh water lakes so are mostly in the states that have plenty of lakes to choose from. It is the state bird of Minnesota. Common Loons like the waters of small and midsize lakes but have to be careful not to get stranded on lakes that are too small. They require a long runway for take off due to their legs being positioned far back on their bodies. The small lake stranding scenario becomes an even greater concern in the Fall when it is time to migrate. If ice forms on the outer edges in a Fall evening, it can leave the loons to short of an area to take flight. The mature and parenting loons are the first to migrate and generally leave in October. The chicks that are born around the 1st week in June are the last to leave usually 2-3 weeks after the adults. Researchers are still not certain how these birds know where to go and if they realize the dangers that early ice could bring them.
Mating loons usually choose an island location and both sexes build the nest. An island helps protect the eggs from some mainland predators. The female lays between 1-3 eggs which hatch a month later. Most females lay 2 eggs and both sexes incubate the eggs and watch and feed the chicks after they hatch. Most breeding pairs fledge only one bird due to weather, stress, predators and humans.
Fortunately for the loons, humans who are partially responsible for their numbers decreasing, are now beating the conservation drum. Organizations have been formed in recent decades which have put into motion many measures to protect the Common Loon. Legislation has been passed, the public is being educated and nesting is being assisted through man made platforms. All these measures are making small incremental changes in keeping loon numbers from further decline and hopefully along with new countermeasures will start to increase loon population.