An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Common Loon Chick Meal Delivery

7-10-13 loon chick being fed 119For the first few days of a loon chick’s life, both of its parents are ever-present, catching and delivering small fish, crayfish and invertebrates for their one or two chicks. Their initial buoyancy and their lack of experience prevent the chicks from procuring their own food for the first month or so, although they soon learn how to chase fish. During the first couple of weeks, the parent loon, having caught a crayfish, small fish or other prey, swims right up to its young and offers the chick its next meal. The chick grasps the food while it is still in its parent’s beak. The parent lets go, and the chick attempts to swallow the crayfish (in this case). In the beginning, the chick often drops its meal. The parent then dives down to retrieve it and once again offers the same crayfish to the chick. This sequence of events can happen over and over until the chick finally manages to hold onto and shift the crayfish into a head-first position in order to swallow it. By the third week this beak-to-beak service begins to be replaced by a practice designed to teach the chick how to capture its own meals. The parents start dropping the food they’ve caught for their chick into the water in front of them, forcing the chick to dive and develop the skills necessary for survival. (The pictured loon chick is well into its second week. Close examination reveals that the chick’s “egg tooth,” used to exit the egg, is still present at the tip of its beak. By week #3 it is not evident.)

6 responses

  1. Jackie

    There is little difference among mammal species when it comes to a mothers love for their new born.

    July 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm

  2. Wonderful photos. I so enjoy watching the loons!

    July 10, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    • Thanks, Susan. How lucky we are that we live where they can be watched!

      July 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

  3. fabulous photos! Thank you so much for all your wonderful posts.

    July 11, 2013 at 1:38 am

    • Thank you so much, Joan. It’s a joy to share my passion with others.

      July 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

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