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Common Loons Migrating

10-27-14 common loons migrating2  146Most of the eastern U.S. and Canada Common Loon population shifts from freshwater inland breeding locations to coastal marine wintering areas, although some remain at inland freshwater sites throughout winter. Research shows that the very large loons in Maine, New Brunswick, and eastern New Hampshire do not migrate far and primarily overwinter in the Gulf of Maine, while smaller loons from other New England and New York breeding populations migrate to Long Island Sound south to New Jersey.

Some Common Loons begin their diurnal migration to their wintering territory in late summer, but most loons leave their breeding territory in September (high latitudes) and October (low latitudes), and arrive at their destination by the end of November. Breeding pairs and their offspring do not migrate together. Parents generally migrate first, usually separately; young remain on their lakes after adults have departed, until near freeze-up, and often migrate in groups. Although they often migrate singly, common loons do form groups (in some places, hundreds or thousands of birds) on large bodies of water before and during migration. These are referred to as staging areas. When migrating over land, loons can reach an altitude of a mile and a half; over water they usually fly within 300 feet of the surface of the water.

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6 responses

  1. Wow! They are amazing birds!

    October 27, 2014 at 1:37 pm

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    It looks like the bird in your photo is in breeding plumage. I thought they molted into winter plumage before migration. I think they use the same flight feathers until they molt into breeding plumage in the spring, but I’m not sure about molt timing.

    October 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    • I was hoping no-one would catch that, but I should have known better! You’re right, the photo was taken in early September, just before it started to molt! Good eye, Kathie!

      October 27, 2014 at 5:21 pm

  3. I’ve seen them along the Maine coast in the fall. It is interesting that they can live in both fresh and salt water. Are there many birds that can do that?

    October 28, 2014 at 3:12 am

    • Great question, Eliza, and one to which I don’t know the answer. I know that osprey live near and eat fish from both fresh and salt water, but there are probably others that do, as well.

      October 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    I see kingfishers hunting both in fresh water and along the coast here on the island.

    October 28, 2014 at 2:55 pm

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