Common loon - Gavia immer
Photos by Barbara Nuffer
Did You Know?
- Loons have solid bones, while most other birds have hollow bones. Solid bones allow the loon to dive underwater to depths of up to 150 feet in search of food.
- After hatching, the chicks are carried on their parents' backs for the first few weeks.
- Walking on land is difficult for loons because their legs are positioned so far back on the body, therefore, they make their nests very close to the water's edge. It is important to keep your distance on land or by boat from nesting loons or loons with chicks (read more here).
- In order to takeoff in flight they need a long water "runway" hundreds of feet in length.
- Loons usually return to the same breeding ground year after year and commonly have the same partner for life.
What to watch for:
28-36" in length; 49-58" wingspan; 8-10 lbs. Males are typically larger than females.
In the summer, adults have a black-and-white checkered back, black head, a long pointed black bill and bright red eyes. In the winter, their plumage (feathers) is mostly grayish-brown, with white on the throat and belly portion, a grayish colored bill and brown eyes. Males and females are similar in color. Immature common loons have mostly a grayish-brown color.
The call known as the wail is easily heard over long distances, sounding similar to a wolf's howl. Another call, the tremolo, sounds like a maniacal laugh.
Where to watch:
Large, deep freshwater lakes with islands and bays surrounded by forests
When to watch:
The peak time to view Common Loons is during the summer breeding season, when their plumage is most vibrant. They can also be found wintering inshore along the coast of Long Island. They travel north from their wintering grounds in late March and April to their breeding grounds, and head south in the fall between October and November.
More information about Common Loons:
The best places to see Common Loons:
Adirondack Park Preserve:
- Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smith's, Franklin County
- Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center in Newcomb, Essex County
- Long Point State Park - Thousand Islands, Jefferson County (leaving DEC website, offsite link)
- Moose River Plains Wild Forest, Hamilton and Herkimer County
- Stillwater Reservoir, Herkimer County (leaving DEC website, offsite link)
- Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area, St. Lawrence County
- William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, Hamilton County
- Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Westchester County (leaving DEC website, offsite link)
- Marshlands Conservancy, Westchester County (leaving DEC website, offsite link)
- Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, Suffolk County (leaving DEC website, offsite link)