Loons and More

     I went on a walk this morning and no, l didn’t see or hear a loon.  I did see a bald eagle soaring overhead, two deer and open water everywhere I went.  The temperatures have been a bit chilly but it warmed up again last night and is suppose to be over 40 degrees today.  We won’t be making ice until later in the week when temperatures will dip again and aren’t expected to get above freezing through the weekend.  Let’s get on with winter; we’re ready to play in the snow, the winter birds are here and the loons have left.

     Here is some interesting information about our State Bird, the Loon, from Pam Perry of the Minnesota DNR.

Q: Late summer and early fall large numbers of loons were recently spotted gathering on a number of lakes. However, they were not feeding and not fighting; they appeared to be partying. Why is this? Is this part of the fall migration?

A: Loons are territorial when they are nesting and raising chicks. But starting in mid-summer, groups of non-mated loons, or loons that were unsuccessful with nesting, begin to gather and move around between lakes. I call these groups "loon parties" because they are indeed socializing and not fighting. Sometimes the loons will circle and actively interact.

As the summer wanes on, these groups get larger and blend into the pre-migratory behavior of gathering on larger lakes. In September, many adult loons that successfully raised chicks leave those lakes, and their chicks, to join the loon groups. In 1998, loon counts completed on Mille Lacs and Winnibigoshish lakes documented a peak of more than 1,500 loons on each lake in the third week of October.

On Oct. 19, 2006, a new high count of 2,729 loons on Mille Lacs was reported by Peder Svingen, a birdwatcher from Duluth.

These groups are comprised of adult loons and young-of-the year. After gathering on these larger lakes, the loons head south on a north wind in late October or November. Loons spend the winter on the ocean and young loons will remain there for two or three years before returning to Minnesota.