The common loon belongs to the family Gaviidae,
The Common Loon belongs to the family Gaviidae, which means sea smew in Latin, or small crested Old World ducks. Europeans call loons Divers because they are excellent divers.
Four different species of loon can be found in North America and in North Eurasia. Minnesota boasts more than 12,000 loons, second in loon population only to Alaska. From Minnesota, loons travel (in September) to the Atlantic coast for the winter. The common loon is thought to be one of the oldest birds on the earth.
The size of a common loon reminds most people of a duck or small goose and ranges from 23 to 36 ½ inches long. Their wingspan alone is 58 inches. Plumage of a common loon is primarily black and white with some grey on the head and neck areas of some species. A white belly is found on some species, but all loons have a long, black, spear-shaped bill. During the summer, the common loon will have spotty black and white plumage and iridescent green head. In the fall, that changes to a gray and white color. A red eye, which helps them to see under water, is a feature of all loons. The loons’ legs are set far back on its body, which probably aids their deep diving abilities. Although the male is usually slightly larger than his counterpart, the male and female look pretty much identical and weigh in between 8 and 12 pounds.
A common loon has four different calls, all of which are distinctive. The males yodel to indicate he is guarding his territory. The tremolo sound is an aggressive call and sounds like maniacal laughter. The wail is long and drawn-out. Male and female loons use a shorter call, the hoot, to communicate to their chicks and each other.
A common Loon eats a variety of fish such as trout, bullheads, smelt, ciscoes, suckers, pan fish, perch and minnows. They have been known to eat salamanders, insects, frogs, leeches amphipods, leeches, and crayfish as well.
By the age of three or four years old, loons are ready to reproduce. Before he looks for a mate, the male loon will choose his nesting territory. During mating season, the male and female loon, perform a dance for each other. The two loons circle each other while periodically dipping their bills as if they were looking down into the water.
They build the nest together out of reeds and grasses found on the edge of the water. Loons normally lay two dark speckled eggs which they incubate together.
The chicks hatch about 28 to 30 days later. The parents also share the responsibility of raising the chicks.
The chicks ride on their parents’ backs until they are two weeks old. Young loons usually begin to fly around two months of age.
Interesting Facts about Loons
Most birds have hollow and light bones, but loons have solid bones. This unique design helps them dive as deep as 250 into the water to find food. They are able to stay under the water for up to five minutes at a time.
Since they are heavier birds, in order to fly, they need a 100 to 600 foot area (runway) in order to get themselves into the air. Once in the air though, they can achieve speeds up to 75 miles per hour!
the common loon
are thought to have a life span of about 30 years
the dodo bird
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