fledgling and parental care
Loon Nesting FAQs
Loons, aquatic birds that are more at home in water than on land, are common on lakes in Canada and Alaska, where they travel each spring to breed.
Read on to learn more about their chosen sites and other nesting habits of these stylish diving underwater hunters.
Loons, known in the UK as divers, are not equipped to travel long distances on land and nest near water, either on islands or in vegetation near water.
To learn more about how loons choose nesting sites, build nests, and raise young, read on, as our complete guide to loon nesting habits dives into these topics in depth.
Closeup of a common loon bird sitting on a nest – known in the UK as a diver
Where Do Loons Nest?
Loons are not good at moving on land and leave the water as little as possible. Mating occurs on land, but the species lives more on the edges of lakes or ponds, or around the shores of small islands, where they are less likely to be disturbed or predated.
The nests are surrounded by water, using underwater vegetation as a framework for building around.
If flooding is a risk then it is common to see an oversized nest structure built higher than the surrounding water level.
Do loons nest in the same place every year?
Nest-finding is the responsibility of the male loons, who return each year to sites where they have successfully bred in previous seasons, and it is common to establish new nests with the same mate or new partners.
Closeup of a nesting common loon
Do loonies build nests in backyards?
A pair of loons is unlikely to make a home in a backyard, unless that yard backs onto a lake and provides a secluded, undisturbed area in which to build a suitable nest.
The loon spends as little time as possible on land, and even nests are built in raised vegetation beds in places surrounded by water or under lakeside shelters.
Do lazy people nest on platforms?
Loons prefer to build their own sprawling nest platforms, using wet leaves, moss, mud, and decaying plant matter that they bring to the surface from the lake bed where they nest or from nearby lake beds.
On rare occasions, eggs may be laid on rocks without any structures around them, but this is uncommon.
Nesting platform of a loon with two unhatched eggs in the nest
What does a lazy nest look like?
A loon’s nest is a sprawling platform made of wet leaves and other decaying plant matter dug from the bottom of lakes and ponds, where two birds use their bodies to create a shallow inner depression to lay their eggs. No lining was added, and the eggs sometimes remained uncovered when the nest was briefly left unattended.
How big is the dragon’s nest?
There is not much data on the precise dimensions of loons’ nests, but observations of nest sites in Minnesota noted the following dimensions – 24.4 to 33 cm (9.6 to 13 in) inside diameter, 55.9 to 56.9 cm (22 to 22.4 inches). Loons’ nests are bulky structures that can weigh up to 18 kg (40 lb).
Close-up view of Common Loon nesting on its nest and turning brood eggs in its environment and habitat
What time of year do loons nest?
After the males return to the breeding grounds from their wintering grounds, they begin to build their nests in April.
Female loons arrive days or weeks later, not always to their former mates, and form pairs again, taking several weeks to establish or restore a strong bond before nesting begins.
How long do loons nest?
Loon eggs require about 4 weeks of brood time to hatch successfully, with 26 to 30 days being considered the upper and lower end of the range.
Upon hatching, the chicks are able to leave the nest within hours, sometimes carrying them on the backs of their parents for their first foray into the water.
Closeup of a common loon in a nest with two eggs on Lake Quewi Wilson, Canada
What month does chinchilla lay eggs?
The most common egg-laying period for breeding loons is April to June, depending on geographic location. Some eggs, especially when attempting a second replacement brood, will spawn in July, but later spawning into summer is unusual.
Where do loons nest in winter?
Loons leave their breeding grounds during the winter when it becomes too cold to stay on. Frozen lakes are not good for loons, who spend most of their time hunting or swimming on the surface because they cannot survive well on land.
In winter, they head out to sea, where the clearer waters provide better hunting opportunities and a chance to safely molt their annuals. During this time, they sleep on open water and do not nest for winter.
common loon undergoing annual molt
How do lazy people build nests?
Nesting sites are individually selected by the males, who develop a strong attachment to their territory and will reuse it in future seasons.
Gather moist foliage and plant material from around the nest, or bring to the surface from the lake bed. This decaying mass is then arranged in a loose circular bed, either from the surrounding water or on the shoreline of a small island not far from the water.
The shallow depressions in the leafy structure are formed by birds, which sit on the nest and pull the surrounding material together. Nest building usually takes less than a week to complete.
What do lazy people use to build their nests?
Wet leaves, moss, and other soggy plant matter are molded into a nest bed and reinforced with other decaying plant matter from the bottom of a lake or reservoir.
In rare cases, eggs may be laid in shallow depressions on lake shores or islands, or even on exposed rocks.
Do male or female loons build their nests?
Male loons begin site selection early in the breeding season. Once construction begins, males and females work together to collect material, using their beaks to throw the muddy material sideways onto the pile to carry it into place.
They then use their bodies to mold the materials they collected to form nest beds.
Breed a pair of common loons with their chicks
What do dragon eggs look like?
Dragon eggs are olive green to brown with dark spots. They are approximately 8.9 cm (3.5 inches) long and 5.6 cm (2.2 inches) wide.
How many eggs do loons lay?
A loon’s nest usually consists of two eggs, but may occasionally lay only one egg. Spawnings are one to three days apart.
Do male loons sit on eggs?
The male loon and the female loon take turns incubating the eggs. Observations have shown that as the time of incubation approaches, females take on a greater share of the overnight incubation tasks and incubate for longer than males.
Closeup of two dragon eggs in a nest
fledgling and parental care
When do the baby dragons leave the nest?
Baby loons are born in a precocious state — feathered and ready to swim and forage almost immediately. During their first two weeks of life, you may watch chicks ride on their parents’ backs, learning important survival skills.
For the first six weeks, baby loons are primarily fed by their parents, but gradually master the art of diving for food. Once they reach 11 or 12 weeks of age, loons are able to catch almost all of their own food and begin to fly too.
How many litters of Loons are there?
It is most common for a pair of loons to raise a young in one season. Rare second litters may be attempted, especially if earlier nests fail. It is not uncommon for twins to lay only one egg.
Baby dragon riding on parent’s back
Loon Nesting FAQs
Are loonies abandoning their lairs?
When nests show signs of malfunction, especially due to predation or flooding, loons will abandon the current nesting site and unhatched eggs and start over nearby.
When the original nest is abandoned, up to 3 re-nesting attempts will be made.
Do loons nest on the ground?
A loon’s nest is built as close to the ground as possible, never considering the off-ground spot on a branch.
Sometimes a simple depression scraped in the ground is sufficient, although more typically on wet leaf beds on the shores of lakes or bodies of water, with underwater vegetation building upwards is the preferred style.
Where do loons nest at night?
Since loons are not adapted to walking on land, they are less at risk of predation if they sleep on water.
They nap during the day and at night, and while not truly nocturnal, it is not uncommon for this species to be active and hunt after dark in their native ponds or lakes.
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I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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