So on today’s walk I managed to actually see and get a picture of a migrating common loon (Gavia immer). I thought I’d heard one yesterday–but hadn’t planned on walking all the way around the lake. Today I didn’t hear one–I was lucky to actually see one.
This particular loon is already starting to show it’s summer colors of having a black and white spotted back. They are on their way back to the northern part of the US and Canada for the summer—which is where their breeding grounds are.
What are some interesting facts about loons?
They have solid bones, which make them better at diving than other birds. They can dive quickly and swim fast underwater. They are also able to slow their heart rate underwater to conserve oxygen.
The loon forages by swimming underwater, where their diet consists of mainly fish, but they also eat crustaceans, insects, leeches, frogs, and mollusks. They will supplement their diets occasionally with pondweeds and algae. Loons reach sexual maturity at about three years of age. Both will build the nest, which is usually near the water. They have usually two young a year.
The young start moving around the surround areas within a day or two of hatching, and can swim and dive by the third day. The young can be seen riding on their parents back during the first few weeks. They are able to fly about two and half to three months after hatching.
The young once they migrate to the coasts will stay there for about two years—during the third year they will migrate back north. Though they may not mate for several more years (three years is the minimum age—that is when they start to migrate back)—it is usually still another year or so before they might take a mate.
These majestic birds will probably lose some of their habitat (namely in the north, where they have their breeding areas) to climate change, and their numbers could start decreasing.
The oldest recorded common loon was a female that was banded in Michigan in 1989, and spotted again in Michigan 2016—making her at least a little under thirty years old when spotted.