Keeping Loon Babies Safe From Harmful Human Activities

Each pair of loons only lays two eggs, and they're lucky if both babies reach adulthood. Baby loons face all kind of dangers—coyotes, raccoons, foxes, even gulls and Bald Eagles eat baby loons! But the biggest danger they face is from humans and human actions. Sometimes people harass loons on purpose, but that happens less now because more people have become aware of loons' needs. More often people hurt loons without even knowing it. Three of the most deadly ways are:


    Video Clip of a Loon Making the Alarm Call
    Watch It Now


  • Going fishing with sinkers made from lead, which can poison and kill loons. One researcher found that loons seem to eat sinkers attached to fish jigs, which flutter in the water like fish. Loons + lead = sick or dead. You can help Get the Lead Out!
  • Throwing things in the garbage that include mercury. When old fluorescent light tubes and bulbs or old mercury thermometers are incinerated or break down in a landfill, mercury can be added to the atmosphere, eventually to return to earth in rainfall, or seep directly into the groundwater. When this mercury makes its way into lakes, it contributes to one of the top ways loons die—mercury poisoning. Items that contain mercury should be brought to a hazardous waste facility, where the mercury can be removed and dealt with in an environmentally safe way. Read more at Mercury Alert!
  • Helping predators find baby loons. Sometimes people in canoes, jet-skis, or boats get too close to a pair of loons and their babies. The loons give the tremolo call when stressed or scared. That means "Back off!" If the danger is still present after the parents have called a few times, the will sink into the water and swim away. They'll pop up far away and call to their babies to follow them, but it may be too late. Eagles and gulls that heard the tremolo often fly over in hopes of finding an unprotected baby loon. During the time the little loons are scrambling to find their parents again, they can get eaten.

Try This! Video Viewing and Journaling
  • The loon in the video is making the alarm call. Can you tell what the loon is alarmed about? The beak moves with each call the loon makes. One part of the video shows the throat wiggle and neck rise just a little as the sound is produced. Can you see that? Notice how the bird holds its neck in a curve, with the weight balanced for this slow-speed swimming. You can also see how far back on its body the loon's webbed feet are. How is the loon designed for the life it leads? After you view the video and list your thoughts, explore our lessons on Adaptations That Help Loons Survive.