About Loons

The Common Loon

Scientific Name: Gavia immer

ADULT WEIGHT: 7 - 13 pounds

HABITATS: In summer, on lakes in coniferous forest zone. In winter, mainly on oceans, usually close to shore.

STATE BIRD: Minnesota

POPULATION: Roughly 12,000 in Minnesota. Estimated 500,000-700,000 Worldwide.



Contact CALL:

Usually used by pairs while they forage or swim on their own territorial lake.


Warning cALL:

A danger warning call that’s often heard by humans. Sometimes used as a call of retreat. Also used in flight.


Long Range CALL:

Long range contact call between mates. Also used by lonely males. Also used to warn of mild alarm, like eagles overhead.


Territorial CALL:

A call to announce territory, like, “this is MY lake!” The pitch of the yodel can reveal the size of the caller.

loon swimming


Loons feature a glossy black head and neck with distinctive red eyes. They have a white chest and their black wings are covered with white spots.

loon nesting


Loons seldom settle on a territory until they are five to seven years old. In most cases, a young loon must evict an older individual of its sex in order to claim a territory for itself. Both pair members cooperate in building the nest and spend equal time incubating the two eggs laid by the female until hatching, which occurs in 28 days.

loon with chicks


It’s a real treat to see a chick catching a ride on a parent’s back. This is because chicks spend the first several days under the wing or on the back of a parent in order to retain body heat. Completely dependent upon parents for food initially, chicks dive for longer and longer periods as they grow, and can provide about half of their own food by the age of five weeks. They are not capable of flight until about nine weeks.

loon diet


Loons prefer fish: panfish, perch, ciscoes, suckers, trout, bullheads, smelt and minnows. They also eat frogs, leeches, crayfish, snails, salamanders, amphipods and insects.

loon head

In bright sunlight, black heads and necks show shimmering iridescent green hues.

loon flying

Loons can fly more than 75 miles per hour and migrate at altitudes of 3,000-5,000 feet.


Loons swallow small pebbles which help to grind up the hard parts of the food they eat.

The Threats


Threats to loon habitats include water quality, contamination and shoreline development.


According to the US Geological Society, Avian botulism from zebra mussels has killed over 100,000 birds in parts of the Great Lakes since 1999.


According to The Earth Day Network, animal populations in freshwater ecosystems have plummeted by 75% since 1970.

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