The Common Loon with its striking silhouette, black and white spotted plumage, and red eyes is one of the most iconic wildlife images of Maine. Due to the size and clarity of Great Pond we are fortunate to be the home of nesting loons throughout the summer months. These majestic birds delight us daily with their swimming antics, diving and popping up some distance away, and their distinctive and haunting calls.
They are fascinating birds with many unique characteristics:
- Loons are amazing swimmers and divers – they look a bit like submarines. Their solid bones make them less buoyant, and they can quickly expel air from their lungs and flatten their feathers to achieve great distances and depth in the water. 10-60 seconds underwater is typical, but can extend to three minutes or more.
- As graceful and efficient as Loons are on the water, they are awkward walkers on land. Their legs are very far back on their bodies which leads to stumbling and pushing themselves on their bellies. Their land time is limited to mating and incubating their eggs in the nests on the water’s edge.
- Loons are like airplanes. They need a long runway, at least 30 yards of open water “running”, to take off. Once airborne, they can fly at speeds of up to 70 mph.
- Fish are a favorite food and a hungry family of four can eat about a half a ton of fish over 4 months.
- Loons usually mate for life and raise their chicks together. It’s not uncommon to see their babies riding on their backs for the first week after hatching to protect them from predators.
- Open water is a must, so Loons migrate, often spending winters in the ocean. At that point their plumage changes from black and white to gray, and their eyes turn from red to gray.
- Loons have four distinct calls: tremolo, wail, yodel and hoot. These are used in courtship and territorial disputes, communication between pairs and offspring, and among flock members, and to signal danger.
We are so lucky to share Great Pond with our Loons!