“The number of adult loons has doubled since 1984,” Susan Gallo told an audience last night at the Portland Public Library. A chart that Gallo showed supported this fact. It also showed, however, that the birth of chicks has remained at the same level for the past thirty-five (35) years according to the loon count they manage every July. (See below right chart.)
Every state in the country has a loon population of some size, not just Maine. These large, solid boned birds are excellent swimmers because of that. But they do need l/4 of a mile to get airborne because they are so heavy. That weight does not make them good landlubbers but rather good targets for predators. Maine loons spend their winters off the coastline and then return to the same lake, year after year – on ice-out day or the following day. According to Gallo, loons are very territorial and fights do erupt over territory when threatened.
Gallo identified calls loons use to communicate with each other – calls that anyone who has spent any time near the birds would no doubt recognize. The Yodel, the Wail, and the Hoot.
Loons do not reproduce until they are seven (7) years old. But even then the survival rate of eggs is low – which certainly accounts at least partially for the low birth rate shown on the bottom red line on the right chart. They live long lives – some up to 30 years old.
Threats to loons today are warming water temperature and water quality which are attributable to climate change. Emerging diseases are a threat as well. About ten (10) years ago, malaria was seen in dead loons by vets. Lead from sinkers and fishing tackle is a major problem in Maine lakes.
One of the activities that you can do to help out is participate in the annual loon count that occurs every July. The loon population is counted in over 300 Maine lakes with 1,400 volunteers doing the counting. You can be a “citizen scientist” as well! Please call 207 – 781-2330 for more information or go to www.maineaudubon.org.
The lecture by Susan Gallo was part of a series of talks at the Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square., in its Portland’s Sustainability series. Please call 207 871-1700 ext. 729 for more information on the series.