By Laura Puch Biologist QuébecOiseaux, Kathy Jones, Volunteer Manager and Biologist, Birds Canada, and Dr. Doug Tozer, Director, Waterbirds and Wetlands, Birds Canada
Research by Birds Canada and our partners shows the number of Common Loon chicks has declined over the past several decades across southern Canada, Ontario (especially northwestern Ontario), and northern Wisconsin. In some locations the adult loon population is starting to decline as well. This is concerning because loons are powerful indicators of ecosystem health and they hold special significance to all Canadians, particularly Indigenous Peoples. If you are moved by the loon’s haunting call or if you admire the species’ striking image, then this may be a concern you share. To ensure the preservation of this iconic species, loon conservationists, scientists, and volunteers from across North America are coming together to help uncover the cause of the declines. The Canadian Lakes Loon Survey delivered by Birds Canada is instrumental in this effort, as recently conveyed in the Cottage Life TV documentary Loons: A Cry from the Mist.
Québec loons might hold clues
Analyses by Birds Canada show that Québec is the only region in Canada where Common Loon productivity has been relatively stable. Why might this be? Perhaps breeding success is better in Québec for reasons that are unclear. This idea is supported, in part, by genomic analyses, which show the central Ontario and southern Québec breeding population is genetically distinct from five other North American breeding populations. The loons in Québec may, therefore, hold clues to help save loon populations elsewhere.
Luckily, we can get a better handle on the situation with help from Québec loon lovers. Monitoring an additional 80 pairs of breeding Common Loons each year above the current number of surveyed pairs across southern Québec will give us a much better idea of how Québec loons are faring. To achieve this, Birds Canada and QuébecOiseaux are happy to announce a new strategic working partnership to increase the number of Canadian Lakes Loon Survey participants in Québec.
QuébecOiseaux is a perfect partner
Founded in 1981, QuébecOiseaux is a non-profit organization that aims to develop birding activities, promote the study of birds, and protect birds and their habitats in Québec. As a unifying organization for all birders in Québec, QuébecOiseaux is a leading voice in matters related to birds. By joining forces, Birds Canada and QuébecOiseaux will help ensure Québec’s breeding Common Loons are well monitored. Learn more about our new partner at quebecoiseaux.org.
How will the partnership work?
QuébecOiseaux will assist Birds Canada by engaging and encouraging Québecers to participate in the Canadian Lakes Loons Survey. QuébecOiseaux will also liaise with lake and cottage stakeholders in Québec to share tips for healthy lake stewardship and other loon education information. QuébecOiseaux’s Laura Puch, will take over leading communications with Canadian Lakes Loons Survey participants who communicate in French.
Do we need volunteers outside of Québec?
Yes, of course! There are gaps in survey coverage in other provinces, plus participants retire from the program every year. If you live, fish, cottage, or camp on a northern lake just about anywhere in Canada and you visit there at least three times a summer—once each in June, July, and August—then please sign up and help us improve coverage in your region. But, of course, if your lake is in Québec, then we’re especially keen to hear from you!
How to get involved
For more information on the program and to register to participate, please visit birdscanada.org/loons or oiseauxcanada.org/huards or reach out directly to Laura Puch if you are in Québec or Kathy Jones if you are elsewhere in Canada. Birds Canada and our partners are working hard to identify the causes responsible for declining Common Loon productivity, so we can get busy implementing conservation solutions. Getting a better handle on Québec’s breeding Common Loons will be extremely helpful in this regard. Birds Canada is extremely pleased to deliver our Canadian Lakes Loon Survey in partnership with QuébecOiseaux.