1, 2015: The Common Loon, Gavia immer,
is a relatively common sight in open water during the winter
months in central Florida. At approximately 9 pounds, with
a 46-inch wingspan and a thick neck and bill, it is an easily
recognized silhouette. The adult non-breeding plumage is
dark grayish head and back with white chin and neck.
The same bird looks very different in northern Wisconsin in the
summer when HRA member, Sue Dodge Donnino, captured the
photo of this striking adult with recently hatched babies.
Sue was kayaking on Muskie Lake in Vilas County when she saw
this family and paddled upwind and then just floated back beside
them. Neither the adult or chicks seemed at all "nervous"
about Sue being there.
The Common Loon is often considered a symbol of wilderness.
Its yodeling and moaning calls, heard both day and night, are
characteristic sounds in the north woods. Common Loons
select large lakes with a good supply of fish and ample space
for take-off. Their diet consists mostly of small fish and
crustaceans. They forage by diving underwater and
propelling themselves with their large feet. Small fish
are swallowed underwater; larger fish are brought to the surface
and eaten there.
It is believed that Common Loons first breed at age two years.
They claim their territory by flying in circles over their
selected property while loudly calling and yodeling. In
courtship, the couple dip their bills into the water several
times, rear up to a vertical posture with slightly open wings
and race side-by-side on the water. Both male and female
build the nest on an island or near the shore in hidden
vegetation. The female lays 2 eggs and both sexes incubate
for 24-31 days. The hatchlings leave the nest within a day
or two and can dive and swim at day 2 to 3. As noted in
the photo, the young often ride on the back of the adult.
Juveniles are capable of flight at about 10-11 weeks of age.
was gathered from
Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman.