Back on Territory
Molted into their beautiful breeding plumage and filling the north with their haunting calls, loons dropped down into clear northern lakes as fast as the ice went out. (See the latest migration map and data.
In our next update, we'll focus in on one state, Wisconsin, so you can analyze just how quickly the loon migration
actually takes place.Why the hurry?
In "The Common Loon: Spirit of Northern Lakes," author Judith McIntyre says: "Yodels are distinctive,
and throughout the summer they sound the same for each loon. Sonogram analysis confirms that during the summer,
each individual male loon gives the same yodel, distinctive from those of other male loons in the population."
The Loon Ranger Reports
One of this week's sightings came from Jim Anderson in Michigan: "Let it be known that the loons have landed on the pond in Montcalm County on the 16th day April 2000, just a little west of Indian Lakes." (43.42N,-85.50W) (email@example.com)
That's a sighting Jim Anderson has been itching to report! These loons and their territory are well known to Jim, who calls himself The Loon Ranger. Most of us aren't lucky enough to see loons or their chicks up close, let alone see an egg hatch. But Jim was! He shares the story behind his canoe quests for loon photographs. See The Loon Ranger's story at:
Earth Day Message
April 22 is Earth Day, but people need to make every day Earth Day. It certainly would help the loons! Common loons are still plentiful in most of Alaska and Canada, but their numbers and range have decreased in the lower 48 United States. The estimated 20,000 loons in the Upper Great Lakes States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan comprise nearly three-quarters of the loon population outside of Alaska. Research suggests that loons in Michigan and Wisconsin have rebounded from drastic declines earlier in the 1900s, and the loon population in Minnesota is still thriving. But many threats remain.
Human activities are the biggest reason for loons vanishing from many lakes. Development of shorelines and islands for summer homes, campgrounds, and marinas has destroyed traditional nesting areas and other suitable sites. Disturbance of loons, especially during sensitive nesting and chick-rearing periods, can reduce or wipe out loon populations. Pollution of lakes used by nesting loons can lead to buildup of toxins in eggs and young, and the loss of food for chicks and adults.
What kinds of toxins are we talking about? Lead and mercury are two. Where do these toxins come from, and how do they get into loons? Read on for ways to help safeguard loons and other wildlife from toxins so you can make EVERY day Earth Day!
Going Fishing? Get the Lead Out!
When lead fishing sinkers are lost through broken fishlines or other means, birds such as loons, swans, and eagles can accidentally eat them. Lead is a toxic metal that harms the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds. Lead is found in most fishing sinkers and some shot, and it's poisoning loons and other wildlife. In areas where loons breed, the Great Lakes region, northeastern United States, and eastern Canada, lead poisoning from fishing sinkers or jigs may account for up to 50 percent of the dead adult loons found by researchers. Lead poisoning does not have to happen. Sinkers and jigs do not have to be made of lead. You can help save loons from lead poisoning deaths with a few easy measures. See our lesson on lead poisoning, with an address for FREE steel sinkers to use yourself or to give to someone who fishes:
Lead isn't the only heavy metal threat to loons, wildlife, and water supplies. See Journey North's lesson on mercury and its connection to the loon's food chain at:
Then use the information in the lesson to answer:
Got a Question? Ask the Expert!
Mark your calendar for May 12 when Ted Gostomski's answers to your loon questions will be on the web. Don't forget to send him your questions! Deadline is April 28.
Nesting, or Just Passing Through? Discussion of Challenge Question #13
"What clues can you look for to tell whether loons are just passing through, or might be staying to nest?"
Rebecca and Cameron Zacher sent a great answer: "If the loons are going to stay and build a nest they will fight off other loons who land there. When they are just traveling there can be lots of loons on a lake together." (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It helps if you know whether the lakes farther north are free of ice yet. If they aren't, then large groups of loons often end up staying on an ice-free lake until ice-out occurs on their breeding lakes. If those loons aren't fighting to defend territory, it's likely they're just passing through. But if several loons are on a lake but spaced apart (like opposite ends of the lake, or in different coves) and not interacting with others, they're likely on territory. Head bobbing and other courting behaviors are signs they're on territory. Hearing the male hoot call at night is another clue; the hoot is a territorial defense call. Finally, if you actually see a loon sitting on a nest, you have absolute proof that the loons are on territory!
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message!
1. Address an e-mail message to: email@example.com
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #15 (or #16 or #17 or #18 or #19).
3. In the body of your message, give your answer to ONE question.
The Next Loon Migration Update Will be Posted on May 4, 2000
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