Species Spotlight: Common Loon

September 3, 2009, 9:13 am
The common loon is anything but common in its appearance. With their trademark zebra-striped “necklace,” glossy checker-board feathers, and sleek graceful form, these majestic birds are quite a treasure to behold.
Loons are commonly found on large freshwater lakes surrounded by wooded areas. These water birds can dive underwater to catch their prey and can submerge for up to a minute in dives that can reach at least 200 feet, making loons one the world’s best diving birds.
Its powerful, muscular legs are set father back on the body than other birds and the leg bones are somewhat flattened. These, and other adaptations that make loons superb divers and swimmers, also make them ungainly on land.
Instead of walking, they scoot their bodies along. For this reason, they build their nests close to the shore, and spend most of their time in the water. Parents even take one-to-two-week-old chicks out on the water to protect them from predators like minks, raccoons and birds of prey. Since the chicks are still learning to swim, parents often carry the chicks on their back, where they stay warm, dry and safe.
Listen for the remarkable call of the loon in the woods. Their eerie yet melodious yodels are one of the most distinctive sounds in nature.
Get the inside scoop on loon watching from this video by a ranger at Acadia National Park.