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Common Loons Nesting

6-13-13 loon on nest 457Generally speaking, Common Loons return to northern New England from their coastal wintering waters sometime in April or May. Males and females pair up after they arrive at their ponds, and several weeks later they breed and build a new nest or renovate an old one, with the male choosing the actual nest site. Successful nests sites are often reused from year to year, especially if the male returns. Protection from wind, waves and predators is paramount. Because their hind legs are positioned so far back on their body, loons are awkward walkers, at best. Thus, they usually build their nest adjacent to water so that they can easily slip onto and off of it. The nest is constructed during the day by both adults and is made of vegetation that the loons collect close to the nest. A loon often sits on the nest while collecting material, stretching its head down into the water in order to retrieve vegetation which it then places on the nest. Two eggs are laid, usually between mid-May and early June. After being incubated by both parents, the eggs hatch in roughly 28 days. As this photograph indicates (egg just visible below loon’s body), material continues to be added to the nest during incubation.

6 responses

  1. Nannette Orr

    hi Jeanne –

    reading this makes me think it was quite amazing you saw young already hatched! Lucky you – Nannette

    June 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm

  2. Marilyn

    So variations in water level can be a problem – or disastrous!

     Marilyn Salmon Lake, Oakland ME

    >________________________________ > From: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland >To: mwheeler64@yahoo.com >Sent: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:01 PM >Subject: [New post] Common Loons Nesting > > > > WordPress.com >Mary Holland posted: “Generally speaking, Common Loons return to northern New England from their coastal wintering waters sometime in April or May. Males and females pair up after they arrive at their ponds, and several weeks later they breed and build a new nest or renovate ” >

    June 13, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    • Yes, Marilyn, it can have disastrous effects. I was just at a pond this morning where the recent heavy rains appear to have flooded out one and possibly two loon nests. Vermont has a lot of man-made platforms that float for this very reason.

      June 13, 2013 at 5:56 pm

  3. Rita Pitkin

    Mary – I’ve been watching a nest on a big beaver pond where I live in West Glover, VT. Loons started nesting here four years ago with successful hatches two of those years. It’s a crazy story but the loons (and chicks) move to the neighboring, bigger pond about one week after the hatch (it’s maybe a quarter mile walk through some muck and woods). It’s pretty amazing – Eric Hanson is familiar with the story. Looking forward to a successful hatch soon.

    June 14, 2013 at 1:56 am

    • Rita, that is amazing! I’ve never ever heard of a loon walking anywhere near that distance. Have you had the good fortune to witness this trek?

      June 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

  4. Rita Pitkin

    No, I have not been able to catch it but hoping to this year with the help of some neighbors. Cornell put me in touch with a wildlife group from Wisconsin that has witnessed similar behavior. Would be nice to film it if we can catch but it’s all pretty iffy timing and figuring out the potential route. We’ll see!

    June 14, 2013 at 9:33 pm

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