Common Loon Factoids

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It takes a loon almost a mile of running across the surface of a lake to get airborne. Once in the air, it flies rapidly, with up to 250 wing beats per minute.

Loons have been clocked at speeds up to 80 mph. (In comparison, ducks average 45-60 mph.)

When lakes freeze up in the fall, loons migrate to the ocean. They molt their wing feathers while at sea and are unable to fly for 30-45 days until their feathers grow back.

The bones of most birds are hollow or honeycombed to reduce weight. Loons are built for diving, not flying. Their bones are solid. This helps them submerge, but makes flying difficult.

Loons feed by catching fish underwater. They can dive as deep as 200 feet. (Only penguins can dive deeper.) While their average dive is less than one minute, they can remain underwater for five to ten minutes if they are startled.

During the winter spent on the ocean, loons eat cod, herring, and sea trout. They have a special gland behind their eyes which excretes seawater into its nasal cavity.

Loons in Minnesota weigh an average of 7-9 pounds, while New England loons weigh up to 12 pounds.

There are more loons in Minnesota than in the other Lower 47 states combined.

Their unusual cries, which vary from wails to tremolos to yodels, are distinct to individuals and can be heard at great distances.

Loons have striking red eyes, black heads and necks, and white striping, checkering, and spotting on their backs.

Their predators are diverse and can strie from all directions as they include birds like gulls, ravens, and crows, fish such as pike, and land mammals such as raccoons, weasels, and skunks

They nest lakeside and incubate their eggs for 27 to 30 days.
Hatchlings leave the nest on their first day and are able to fly in about 11 weeks.

The loon has sharp, rearward-pointing projections on the roof of its mouth and tongue that keep it keep a firm hold on slippery fish.

Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, allowing efficient swimming but only awkward movement on land.

Biologists estimate that loon parents and their two chicks can eat about a half-ton of fish over a 15-week period.

Like most young birds, juvenile loons are really on their own after mom and dad leave at about 12 weeks. The parents head off on migration in the fall, leaving juveniles to gather into flocks on northern lakes and make their own journey south a few weeks later. Once the juveniles reach coastal waters on the ocean, they stay there for the next two years. In the third year, young loons return north, although they may not breed for several more years (on average they are six years old when they start breeding).

Migrating Common Loons occasionally land on wet highways or parking lots, mistaking them for rivers and lakes. They become stranded without a considerable amount of open water for long takeoff. A loon may also get stranded on a pond that is too small.

The oldest-known Common Loon lived at least 24 years, 1 month, spending its summers on a lake in Michigan.

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