About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Migration of the Common Loon

Common Loons’ sleek black and white breeding plumage is changed to a less showy gray and white during their fall molt. The birds gather in large migration groups during late summer and early fall, and then migrate south alone. They usually travel from the early morning at high elevations (between 4900-8800 feet) at speeds up to 105 mph until sunset. Adults leave first followed a few weeks later by the young. The Common Loons that nest in upper Michigan winter in the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern coast of Florida.
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Fun Facts on Loons
  • Adult loons are 3 feet long with a wingspan of 5 feet.
  • Loons feed on freshwater fish in the summer and saltwater fish in the winter.
  • Loons dive for their dinners and have nearly solid bones that make them sink unlike most birds which have hollow bones.
  • Loons have a built in nostril flap to keep water out while they dive.
  • Adult loons have red eyes, however, due to the properties of water, most red is filtered out, making them invisible to prey.
  • Most loons mate for life and are very faithful to a nesting site.
  • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it: The males’ territorial song which consists of an undulating complex yodel remains the same unless it loses the battle for his territory.
  • During the first seven days of life, chicks ride safely on the backs of their parents. It is thought that once the loon chicks leave the nest, they don’t touch land again until they are 5-6 years old.
  • Loons don’t begin mating until they are about seven years old and can live as long as 30 years.
  • Loons aren’t ducks or geese but in the genus called Gavia (Latin for aquatic bird), and the species name of Michigan’s Common Loon is immer (Latin meaning to immerse).
  • The common name loon comes from the Swedish word lom which means lame. While graceful in the air and water, the birds’ feet are located so far back on their body, they look awkward walking on land.
  • The tremolo of a loon is known as the laughing call. The phrase “crazy as a loon” comes because the loons’ call can sound like wild laughter.
  • Loons are rendered flightless for up 2 months (Jan-Feb) while the molt and grow new primary feathers.
  • The Common Loon is no longer common in Michigan and is listed as a threatened native species.
Sources:
Michigan Loon Preservation Assoc. - http://www.michiganloons.com/index.html
Fascinating Loons by Stan Tekiela (available at Wild BirdsUnlimited)
Photos from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_loon

Related articles:
Odd Phrases That Involve Birds: http://bit.ly/phVXxe
What Weighs More, Bird's Feathers or Bird's Bones?: http://bit.ly/r6BSYl

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