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Common Loon Chicks Riding High

7-10-17 common loon and chick IMG_4179

Why do Common Loon chicks ride on their parents’ backs for the first two weeks of their life? There are several reasons. Loon chicks leave their nest as soon as their downy feathers are dry; if they stayed in their ground nest, they would be very vulnerable to predators on land. For the same reason, they rarely return to their nest.

Like many young birds, loon chicks can’t immediately regulate their body heat.  Many birds brood their young in the nest, providing them with warmth and shelter.  Common Loon parents brood their young on their back (and under their wings). On windy, cloudy, cool days, the chicks are nowhere to be seen, huddled under their parents’ wings. On calm, sunny days, they are in full view.

Although they can swim immediately after hatching, loon chicks are very buoyant and have difficulty maneuvering. Predators such as Bald Eagles, Common Ravens and gulls are quick to prey on young loons that have no parental protection. In addition, predatory fish such as Northern Pike and Largemouth Bass are a threat. Once they are several weeks old, the chicks are not only bigger, but they are more mobile and can avoid predators more easily.

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7 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    What a beautiful photo and such gorgeous markings. What a nice way to,travel, on your parents’ back. I love all the different ways animals protect and take care of their young. Snapping turtles also lurk in the water 😕

    July 10, 2017 at 7:58 am

  2. JonB

    Interesting that the chicks have dark eyes and the parents eyes are red.

    July 10, 2017 at 8:02 am

  3. janetpesaturo

    Cool photo. I recently saw a bald eagle swoop down at a loon parent with chicks on its back, and the parent dove down into the water, taking the chicks with it. The parent must have somehow clutched the babies with its wings to keep them attached during the dive.

    July 10, 2017 at 8:34 am

  4. Karen Burns

    Could this be cuter?

    Sent from my iPad


    July 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

  5. Clyde

    On Golden Pond, “Hear the loons, Can’t hear a damn thing!”
    Great picture

    July 10, 2017 at 9:46 am

  6. Stephanie Olmsted

    Missing you and hoping everything is getting better!

    July 20, 2017 at 4:56 pm

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