Common Loon Migration Update: February 25, 1999
Today's Report Includes:
Loons on Their Wintering Grounds
Right now many of the loons wintering in the ocean have lost the ability to fly. Are they sick? Nope. Injured? Nope. In big trouble? Nope! They're simply molting, growing a whole new set of flight feathers before their migration back to their breeding grounds.
Wing feathers are so light and buoyant that they float. For loons to dive and chase fish underwater without popping back up like a cork, their wings are as small as possible. Eagles and hawk often fly about-hunting or migrating- while missing two or three wing feathers. If a loon were to try to fly while missing three wing feathers, the surface area of its wing would be too small to hold up its body! As it is, to get up and stay up, loons must beat their wings fast and steady, and virtually never soar or glide even for a moment!
It takes a lot of energy and body resources to grow feathers. Loons grow a lot of large, stiff feathers all at once. They can become severely stressed if they are already weakened from some disease, for example. Or, if they have toxic chemicals stored in their body fat, when the fat is used for feather growth, these toxins can suddenly flood their system. Sometimes they even may die. A few times, there has been a large loon die-off in the ocean. When this tragic event happens, it's usually February, right when loons are molting and most vulnerable.
Salt of the Earth
Challenge Question # 1
How do loons adapt to salt water?
Start Watching for Loons
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 1
3. In the body of your message, answer the question.
The Next Loon Migration Update Will be Posted on March 11, 1999
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