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Tag Archives: loons

I love to watch and listen to the Common Loons when I camp in the Highlands. For me, they represent a certain wildness that is not often present in my daily life. They are exquisitely beautiful birds with haunting calls. If a Bald Eagle approaches a lake with a pair of nesting loons, the birds will call back and forth to each other, as if keeping track of the arch predator, warning each other of the potential danger. Sometimes, it seems they call for fun or to welcome the morning sun or the end of the day. When other loons arrive on the lake, they call back and forth, perhaps in greeting?

I was lucky to see two loons on nests, one visible from a road and the other from my boat. They are sensitive to disturbance so I kept my distance from them.

Loons spend a lot of time preening to maintain their waterproofing and to line up their feathers. Read about that here. The most recent North Central Washington newsletter has articles about banding Common Loons in Ferry and Okanogan Counties. You can read that here.

Baby birds need to eat a lot and eat often. They have a lot of growing up to do in a short time. By fall, these tiny babies need to be able to fly away to the ocean or maybe the Columbia River where they will find water and food and safe havens. Both parents feed the little ones, diving often to search for small tidbits to feed the babies.

When I first arrived at the lake, I was delighted to see two adult Common Loons, each with a baby loon on its back! The little ones are subject to predation, primarily by Bald Eagles. Generally, loons lay two eggs which are also subject to predation by any animal that can get to their nests. So seeing two youngsters brought a smile to my face, especially seeing them on top of their parents. It was fun to see the baby get onto the parent’s back. Still not quite sure how they get a grip and pull themselves up. Loons are not agile on their feet.

This is the family we saw back in June. The youngster was still quite little then. Look here and scroll down til you see the little loon. Now it’s two and a half months old and nearly as big as its parents who are still feeding it. A banding crew caught it sometime during the summer and it is banded and scientists may be able to find it in the future and discover its migration route.

Common Loon. One of my favorite birds. Growing up, I had no idea they could be found in Washington. I thought they lived in places like Minnesota or New England or Canada. I was well past middle age when I saw, and heard, my first loons in the Okanogan Highlands. It’s one of the reasons we keep going back there, year after year. Where else can we listen to loons as we sit around the campfire or hear them at first light or watch them socialize with each and raise their youngsters on the clear cool water? Loons are remarkable birds. You can learn more about ‘the spirit of the north’ here.

It is worthwhile to click through all of these images and see some interesting loon behaviour. They clearly are very social, flying from one lake to another to ‘visit’ with the resident loons. They struggle to raise their young with the ever-present threat from hungry eagles also raising youngsters. The family we watched each day had two young the week before we arrived but only one when we were there. And that splashing! I don’t know what that’s all about. Loons often just tip over gently into the water, hardly leaving more than a ripple. Those four loons appeared to be fishing together and did this repeatedly while we watched for an hour or more. Others reported seeing the same activity.

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