website top


                                                    e-Newsletter Vol. 25
In This Issue
Early Winter Rescues
Species Profile: Pacific Loon

Upcoming Events

The Lewis & Clark Trail: 200 Years of Changes
Feb 20; 7 pm
at The Loon Center

Pleasant Lake in Winter by Kittie Wilson
Did You Know?
Have you ever wondered how lakes freeze in the winter?  Click here to read an article written by our colleagues at NH LAKES.
Contact Us 
P.O. Box 604
Lee's Mill Road
Moultonborough, NH 03254
Join Our Mailing List


Find us on Facebook



Happy New Year!  After the recent blast of Arctic air, I think it's safe to say that most of the loons have finally left our lakes and are settled out on the ocean for the next few months (although there is one that really seems to like Winnipesaukee as it was spotted just yesterday morning). We assisted with a few rescues towards the end of 2013 which you can read about below.  We were also in touch with folks down in Massachusetts regarding a stranded loon on the Mystic River.  Many thanks to members of the Arlington Bird Club, the Animal Rescue League of Boston and Tufts Wildlife Clinic for assisting with the rescue and ongoing care of this loon.  Click here to see pictures from the rescue in early January. 
Although the Pacific Loon is a western species, we do occasionally see one on the New England coast during migration.  Scroll down or click here to learn more about this beautiful bird.  The photo below was taken near Provincetown, MA a few years ago.  You can really see the size difference between the Common Loon (left) and the smaller Pacific Loon.

Common Loon & Pacific Loon


Many thanks to everyone who came to our Holiday Open House on November 30 and to those who participated in our annual benefit raffle throughout the year.  Congratulations to the winners: David Hughey (quilt), Marion McCarthy (loon decoy) and Tom McNally (kayak).


Until next time, I hope you continue to have a great winter.  I for one am hoping for more snow!


All the best,



RescuesEarly Winter Rescues & Recoveries 
By John Cooley

This doesn't always work (and we don't recommend you try it unless you are a trained professional!).....
Loon rescue photo courtesy of Mi Lan, a guest of the Houghtons on Hatch Pond.  LPC Senior Biologist John Cooley is carefully navigating the ice with a canoe, getting ready to capture the loon.
......but in this case, volunteers (thank you to the Houghtons and Palmers) and LPC field program biologist John Cooley teamed up to capture the breeding male loon on Hatch Pond in Eaton, after he became stranded on newly-formed ice in late November.  Wildlife Rehabilitators Kappy Sprenger and Avian Haven cared for the loon, releasing it on the coast of Maine several days later. 


Thankfully, a cold start to the winter meant that most ponds froze over quickly, and besides the Hatch Pond rescue there were few other reports of loons at risk of being stranded by ice.  Unfortunately, an adult loon on Back Lake in Pittsburg did succumb as the ice formed in late November.  


Photo courtesy of Patty & Ron Kuncio, owners of the North Country Lodge and Cabins.


Owners at the North Country Lodge in Pittsburg witnessed the mortality and helped LPC biologist Tiffany Grade collect the loon once the ice was thick.  In spite of the presence of an eagle (see photo above) at the time the loon died, preliminary necropsy results indicate that ingested fishing tackle may have contributed to the loon's inability to leave the lake as the ice closed in.  A more complete examination of the loon is pending to determine the cause of death.  Unfortunately, early December yielded a second mortality from the North Country, when a juvenile loon crash landed during a snowstorm in a Twin Mountain parking lot. Although this loon appeared vigorous after the crash, internal injuries eventually proved fatal.


There was better luck for a banded loon from Northwood Lake that crashed in Dunstable, Massachusetts later in December.  Wildlife photographer Mark Wilson rescued the loon from a landfill and, after it was examined by staff at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic, it was released on the coast by Mark & Marcia Wilson the following day.  Thank you to volunteers like Mark & Marcia, rehabilitators Kim Johnson, Kappy Sprenger, Avian Haven, and Tufts Wildlife Clinic for all their work on these rescues!


By the end of December, most lakes and ponds were frozen.  However, the Laconia-area Audubon Christmas Bird Count tallied six loons on December 29th, on the open water of Winnipesaukee.  These loons were not observed on subsequent checks by LPC staff, but one was spotted in the "Broads" of Winnipesaukee yesterday morning.  Besides that lone loon, hopefully, the only place to see a loon in New Hampshire is on the coast. Happy winter bird watching!

PacificLoonSpecies Profile: Pacific Loon 

The Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) spends most of its time on the Pacific Ocean, only coming inland to freshwater Arctic lakes and ponds to breed.  It is smaller than the Common Loon, with a total length just over two feet and a weight of 2-5 pounds (a male Common Loon in NH can weigh up to 15 pounds!).  During the breeding season, the head and back of neck is grey, the throat has a black patch which is bordered by black and white stripes, the back has a bold white checkered patch and the breast and belly are white. In flight their form is similar to that of the Common Loon but their head and feet are smaller.  
Pacific Loon on a nest in Cantwell, Alaska. Photo taken by Richard Seeley.
A pair arrives on their breeding grounds just as the wetlands are beginning to thaw, but they will not start building a nest until the water level drops a bit.  Once the eggs are laid, both members of the pair will incubate them for approximately 28 days.  Nesting habitat is similar to that of the Red-throated Loon and, like the Red-throated Loon, Pacific Loons will feed their chicks at the nest pond but will travel elsewhere to forage for themselves. However, they will stay close to their territory and forage in freshwater habitats, unlike the Red-throated Loon that travels to marine habitats for food.  This may be one subtle way the two species avoid competition during the breeding season.  
Pacific Loon chicks are often moved over land to a nearby wetland (less than 150 m away) when they are approximately two weeks old, possibly because food availability becomes more limited on the nest pond as they grow.  This is quite an amazing feat considering they cannot really walk on land! 
Although Pacific Loons are quite common in the winter along the Pacific Coast they spend time farther off shore than other loon species.  Previously, it used to be considered the same species as the Arctic Loon, but now they are considered two separate species.  Even though the Pacific Loon is the most abundant loon species in North America, there is a lot to learn about them since they are relatively understudied.
Note: Thanks to Richard Seeley and Steve Kaufman for sharing their photos of Pacific Loons in Alaska.  Steve mentioned that last summer was one of the warmest summers on record for much of Alaska and he actually witnessed one of the adults die of suffocation when a leech attached to its throat.  "It had a large leech attached inside it's throat.  We watched it flap wildly and it kept throwing it's head in the water, then rearing back with it's beak wide open.  We knew something was wrong with it, and at first we thought it might have a fish hook or some foreign object in it's mouth.  When it died later that day, we picked it up, and saw the leech." They took the loon to a friend with the US Fish & Wildlife Service for further examination.


* Information for this article was summarized from the Birds of North America Online Species Account.

The Loon Preservation Committee is dedicated to restoring and maintaining a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire; monitoring the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and promoting a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.

Susie Burbidge
Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator
Loon Preservation Committee