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Adult Common Loons Molting & Migrating

At this time of year, adult Common Loons are undergoing a partial molt, during which they transition from their striking black-and-white breeding plumage into their gray-and-white winter plumage. This transition typically begins with the feathers surrounding the bill.

Many adult loons have departed from their northern freshwater breeding lakes, heading for their coastal New England wintering grounds.  Juvenile loons linger, sometimes remaining on their natal or adjacent lakes until near freeze-up.  Once they arrive on their wintering grounds, they will remain there for the next two to four years before returning to their inland breeding grounds. (Photo: adult Common Loon in foliage-reflecting water)

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6 responses

  1. Do you know how long it takes for a loon to achieve their adult plumage? Here on the island in the summer, I think most of the loons on the ocean, non-breeding adults, are in what looks like adult plumage.

    October 18, 2021 at 8:21 am

    • Hi Kathie,
      Common Loons attain their full breeding plumage at age two, thought they don’t breed or return to breeding lakes for a year or two more.

      October 18, 2021 at 9:28 am

  2. DENNIS CARD

    Hi Mary,

    Maureen and I just sent a donation to your blog through PayPal. We hope you are well and will continue this wonderful work!!

    Dennis Card and Maureen McCanty 50 Tenney Hill Rd Dunbarton, NH 03046-4115

    >

    October 18, 2021 at 8:25 am

  3. Lee Attix

    Dear Mary,

    I wanted to alert you that juvenile loons, not yet in breeding plumage do not necessarily remain at their wintering grounds for the first 2-4 years as you stated. I’ve been studying loons for 25 years and every year I observe a few of them on lakes in New England. I’m not sure why they are there, but it is widely observed throughout their breeding range in the US.

    I really enjoy your posts. Thanks so much!

    Lee

    Lee Attix Loon Conservation Associates 18 Merrymeeting Drive Portland, ME 04103 lcattix@gmail.com

    *Dedicated to the protection and welfare of loons and their lakes through collaboration, education, and the implementation of successful conservation actions.*

    On Mon, Oct 18, 2021 at 7:04 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: ” At this time of year, adult Common Loons are > undergoing a partial molt, during which they transition from their striking > black-and-white breeding plumage into their gray-and-white winter plumage. > This transition typically begins with the feathers sur” >

    October 18, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    • Thank you, Lee. I have never heard or read of this phenomenon, but it is fascinating to know that. Many thanks.

      October 18, 2021 at 5:02 pm

  4. Alice

    Hmmmmm…my comment from this am didn’t show up… ‘That’s a very sharp looking beak. Colors reflected on the water are gorgeous.’

    October 18, 2021 at 3:46 pm

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