An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Common Loons Incubating Eggs

Common Loons prefer nesting on islands (versus the mainland) and typically their nest is adjacent to water that is deep enough for an underwater approach.  Males usually choose the nest site, and return to it year after year if they have reproductive success there. Both male and female loons construct the nest, using vegetation growing adjacent to or on the bottom of the pond near the nest site.  It takes them about a week to build their nest and they add continuously to it throughout incubation.

Usually two eggs are laid, occasionally one, and both parents incubate the eggs.  Incubation lasts 26 – 29 days.  Just prior to hatching you can hear the chicks peeping inside the egg before they cut through the membrane and outer shell with their “egg tooth,” extract themselves from the egg, dry their down and enter the water.  They are born knowing how to swim.

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19 responses

  1. Alice

    What a beautiful bird & so clever! Caring, sharing parents I remember your photo of the chick, having a ride on a parent’s back.

    June 12, 2020 at 8:06 am

    • Margaret Badger

      My thoughts exactly.

      June 12, 2020 at 5:59 pm

  2. Cassie

    Hi Mary, love your column. I was wondering if you know about brown bats? I have a colony under the metal on my roof. I’m worried about them ruining my roof with their feces but don’t know the proper way to encourage them to leave. I’m not sure if they are raising babies st this time? Any advice is welcome. Thank you, cassie Sent from my iPhone

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    June 12, 2020 at 8:26 am

  3. Harriette Griffin

    When do loons nest?

    June 12, 2020 at 8:29 am

    • Right now! Typically in northern New England they’re on the nest in June, and eggs hatch at the end of June or beginning of July, but it varies a bit from year to year. I know of chicks that have already hatched this year in NH.

      June 12, 2020 at 2:26 pm

  4. What A Gorgeous Bird! We live in MA don’t think there are any Loons around here? Main Vermont must have most of them! But when you visit somewhere, where there are Loons their call is unmistakable so beautiful! 🙂 ❤

    June 12, 2020 at 8:55 am

    • Hi lydifeline,
      Actually, you do have breeding loons in Massachusetts! At Quabbin Reservoir, and several other lake in central Massachusetts. You can read about them at file:///C:/Users/Mary/AppData/Local/Temp/gavia-immer-1.pdf. Hope you get to see and hear them!

      June 12, 2020 at 2:25 pm

  5. Amy Harris

    I think it would be interesting for folks to know they have to nest on a flat area right next to
    The water. Their legs and feet are set so far back on their bodies that it is difficult to walk far.

    If an area gets a lot of rain and the water rises, their nests may be destroyed. Also boat wakes and wake boarding are very destructive to the nests. Please be aware if you are in an area where loons nest.

    June 12, 2020 at 12:42 pm

  6. Amy Harris

    Last summer I got to with some lion biologists on a lake in Quebec to tag, weigh and take blood samples for a study. My job was to hold the loon while all this was going on. Imagine holding on to a overfill football (this bird is solid muscle) that is breathing and snorting. They have very sharp bills, serrated on the inside in the direction of their throats to aid in moving the fish downward. They have toenails on the ends of their toes like a small dog’s. I have pictures of the scratches to prove it. We were out until 2am, since the work can only be done at night. What an experience.

    June 12, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    • Amy Harris

      Loon biologists. Sheesh, autocorrect!

      June 12, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    • Amy Harris

      Loon biologists. Sheesh, autocorrect!

      June 12, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    • Quite the adventure, Amy! Fascinating to hear the details of a loon’s anatomy!

      June 12, 2020 at 1:57 pm

  7. I love it! Missing you ! Can I come sometime this week? Perhaps I could’ve some help? Love, Kay

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    June 13, 2020 at 7:22 am

  8. Amy

    Would like to make a donation but can’t find the donate button…..

    June 13, 2020 at 8:27 am

    • Hi Amy, thank you so much! Did you go to the actual blog site? There should be a yellow box to the right saying “donate”. Not sure what to do if it isn’t there!

      June 13, 2020 at 9:43 am

    • Also, I don’t think you can see it on a cell phone…

      June 13, 2020 at 9:44 am

  9. Hi Mary,

    Terrific post on the Common Loon. I’ve been volunteering for the Loon Preservation Committee for the last 10+ years and have done a lot of research on loons. The information in your post is exactly as I understand it from my own observations and sources I’ve used.

    I’m always looking for additional research source materials on the loon. Would you share with me the sources you use for this species?

    Again, thanks so much.

    Brian Reilly Keene

    >

    June 13, 2020 at 5:11 pm

  10. Hi Brian,
    I am about to move and all of my books are packed. Could you possibly contact me (mcholland505@gmail.com) in a couple of weeks and I’d be glad to give you the name of my sources. None of them were written very recently, if that matters! Thanks so much.

    June 14, 2020 at 2:38 pm

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