Common Loons Photo: Peter Ferguson
Summer is a critical period for Common Loons. At this time, loons are incubating eggs and raising their vulnerable young. The results of Bird Studies Canada’s Canadian Lakes Loon Survey indicate that the number of chicks produced per loon pair has been decreasing over time. Help and respect from people during the breeding season is particularly important.
Here are a few simple things you can do to directly benefit loons at your lake:
Give loons and other wildlife space. Giving loons and other wildlife a wide berth when you’re boating helps them remain focused on important behaviours like feeding and caring for young. Rearing up, vocalizing, flattening the body, or coming off the nest are signs that a loon has been disturbed. If you notice any of these signs, move back.
Provide shelter along the shoreline. Leave or add native wetland vegetation along your shoreline, as well as a border of unmown, untrimmed vegetation above the water’s edge. Loons rely on these sheltered areas when they are nesting, and to shelter their chicks. More importantly, natural shorelines and shallows are important breeding habitat and shelter for loons’ main food source: fish.
Dispose of garbage correctly. Making sure plastics, fishing line, and tackle are properly stored and disposed of prevents loons and other wildlife (e.g., turtles, waterbirds) from becoming seriously injured or entangled. Keeping food scraps contained avoids attracting nest scavengers that prey on eggs and chicks.
Help other lake-goers help loons. Joining your lake association and sharing information with neighbours about loons and conservation are excellent ways to multiply your positive impact. Distributing our new poster, “Top Six Ways You Can Help Loons,” is a great first step.
There are also more general actions you can take to contribute to the health of loons and lakes across Canada.
Monitor loons with the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey. Volunteering one day a month in June, July, and August is all it takes. Observations submitted to the survey allow us to track the reproductive success of loons over time. Results also help us understand overall trends in lake health, because loons are effective ecosystem indicators, meaning their level of health reflects the conditions of their habitat.
Support policies to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution. Research has shown that loon reproductive success is negatively impacted by high acidity (caused by acid rain) and mercury pollution in lake water. Acid rain and mercury are deposited in lakes as a result of air pollution from fossil fuel combustion and from industrial activities including electricity generation, mining and smelting, pulp and paper production, and waste incineration. Changes in our lake temperatures, caused by greenhouse gases, increase the mobilization of heavy metals into our water column and food chains.
About 95% of the world’s Common Loon population breeds in Canada. Thank you for taking action to conserve this species, which depends on us and the lakes we share!