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Archive for January 7, 2022

Where Do Common Loons That Breed in New England Spend The Winter?

In northern New England, Common Loons nest and raise their young on inland lakes and ponds.  By late fall, when most of the lakes have started to freeze over, the majority of loons head for the East Coast although some do overwinter on open, inland, freshwater lakes.  Loons that migrate spend the winter in their new, drabber plumage off the Northeast coast where they apparently have no problem adapting to salt water and the change of diet which that entails. 

Predominantly fish-eaters, Common Loons favor yellow perch, pumpkin seed and bluegill in addition to other species of fish, crayfish and aquatic invertebrates.  In the winter they feed primarily on flounder and herring, as well as crustaceans.  Most of their food is consumed under water, but a large fish or crustacean, such as a crab (see photo) or an occasional lobster, is usually eaten after surfacing. One adaption that serves them well in the winter is a salt gland that excretes excess salt that they ingest while feeding in the ocean. 

Just as they have territories on their breeding lakes, many wintering loons return to the same area year after year, occupying a 6-12 square mile “home range” area for the duration of the winter. Common Loons typically stay close to shore and their large size makes them relatively easy to spot. (Thanks to Susan Holland for photo opportunity.)

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