Common Loon - Gavia immer

Length 2.0-3.3 ft (61.0-101.6 cm)
Wingspan 4.0-5.0 ft (121.9-152.4 cm)
Weight 9 lb (4082.3 g)
Clutch Size 1-3
Chicks at birth Precocial
IUCN Conservation Status Least Concern
Continents:NA, EU

The Common Loon or Great Northern Loon is Minnesota's state bird. In Eurasia another name for this species is the Great Northern Diver. Minnesota's web site states that they have more Common Loons than any state except Alaska. Common Loons are great swimmers and divers but they are awkward on land because they legs are towards the rear of their body. They are also strong fliers

Both sexes look similar but males may be slightly bigger and heavier. In breeding or alternate plumage, they have a greenish-black head and neck, a black-and-white stripe bar around the neck, black-and-white checked back, white belly, straight black bill, and red eyes. In winter or basic plumage, the black head is more gray and white without the neck bar and generally the rest of the plumage is less intense. In all plumages, their irises are red.

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Diet: Common Loons mostly eat fish but will also eat crustaceans, especially crayfish. To catch fish they use their excellent sight to locate fish underwater. They then will dive as deep as 200 feet to catch them. Parents feed insects and aquatic insect larvae to their chicks.

Courtship: It is believed that Common Loons pairs re-mate from year to year but it has not been proved. Before nesting, the pair spends time together preening and swimming together. While swimming together they turn their heads side to side and do short dives. The male will call to the female. If she accepts they will move to the shore for copulation.

Nesting: Common Loons prefer to build nests on islands to avoid predation by mammals and other ground based predators. They are built close to the water. If chicks or eggs are lost to predation, Loons will relocate to a different nest site and lay another clutch. It is believed that Loons will return to the same site each year.

Nests are built on the ground using vegetation such as leaves, needles, underwater vegetation, etc. Both sexes build the nest. 1-2 eggs are laid, the second egg is smaller than the first. Both parents will incubate the eggs. The chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after hatching. When they leave the nest, they rarely return to the nest site.

While they can swim immediately, the parents feed and defend them for about three months. The chicks will beg for food by making vocal calls and pecking at the side of the parent's neck. The chicks will sometimes ride on the back of the parent. Loons don't begin breeding until they are 3 or 4 years old.

Habitat and Range: Found throughout North America, they breed in mostly in Canada and the very northern U.S. on fresh-water lakes. During winter they are found near both coasts.

Vocalization: The Common Loon has four calls. The tremolo, which sounds a bit like maniacal laughter, is an aggressive call. The wail is a long, drawn-out sound. The hoot, a shorter call, is used to communicate among parents and young. The yodel is sounded by male loons guarding their territory.

Plumage/Molt: Loons have two molts, one for the basic or winter plumage, the second for their alternative or breeding plumage. The basic plumage happens in late summer on their breeding grounds. The alternate plumage happens in late winter before going to the breeding grounds. At this time, all the flight feathers are replaced. During this time, they are flightless.

Migration: Unlike most birds, Common Loons are usually the first to arrive and the last to love the breeding grounds.

Tongue/feet: No information.


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