Acadia
National Park Maine

Loons and the Lake Life

Loon with young
Loon with its young

Emma Forthofer/ FOA

Acadia’s lakes and ponds attract many visitors to swim, kayak, and fish. Lake life also caters to loons, one of Maine’s common water birds. Loons represent Maine’s landscape encompassing pristine waterbodies and its surrounding woodlands. Their striking appearance, expressive calls, and ability to vanish underwater make the loon a fascinating bird of Acadia National Park.
 
Loon flapping its wings
Loon flapping its wings

NPS

Species Profile

Loons are water birds, so their ideal habitat are lakes and large ponds. In order to see and catch their prey when they dive underwater, clean and clear water is essential. They also prefer coves and hidden quite areas to protect themselves from predators. Also, they choose water bodies that are large enough for them to take flight. Because loons are heavier than most water birds, it is difficult for them to take off, strenuously flapping their wings and running across water. Like airplanes, loons require large and long landing strips to allow for enough room to take off and can fly up to 70 mph. When lakes and ponds freeze during the winter, loons move to ocean coasts and bays, staying close to shore or move inland to reservoirs.

Loons primarily feast on fish, but feed on crustaceans, snails, and water borne insects if the water is murky. Sharp, dagger like bills help keep hold of fish they catch and usually swallow them underwater. Loons are quick divers and agile swimmers. This is attributed to their solid bones making them less buoyant and better for diving. Before a long dive, loons compress their feathers and exhale, providing oxygen rich blood for vital organs. Plus, their long neck and powerful feet that stick out beyond their tail allows them to maneuver quickly underwater, shooting through water like a torpedo.

 
Loon on nesting raft
Loon on nesting raft

Photo by Ashley L. Conti, Friends of Acadia, NPS

Because loons do not walk well on land, they choose sites close to land. They build nests in quiet and private spots, preferably with a steep drop off to approach from under water. Sometimes artificial nesting platforms or rafts are constructed to encourage nesting. Artificial platforms are an alternative to areas with extensive waterfront development. Often, loons will return to the same nest restoring their old nest, rather than constructing a new one.

One of the most captivating aspects of loons are their unique, echoing, yet haunting calls. Loons have four different calls. The tremolo, also known as the crazy laugh, is used as a defense signal from threats. Only called by males, the yodel is a long, rising call to defend its territory. Also, the wail is used for social interactions and responding to other loon calls. Lastly, the hoot is for family members trying to locate on another.

 
Kayakers observing loons
Kayakers observing loons

Photo by Emma Forthofer, Friends of Acadia, NPS

Viewing Loons

Loons are extremely sensitive to human disturbance. Remember that we share the water with other wildlife. When observing loons keep a respectful distance of 100 feet. Loons chicks do not dive well and cannot move quickly enough to get away. Keep an eye out for nesting sites. Loons can potentially abandon nesting sites if you are too close for comfort. Also, loons can easily get entangled from fishing line, in addition to ingesting toxic lead weights. Anglers must use lead free weights. It is up to Acadia and its visitors to protect these peaceful pond residents.

 

Related Information

Loading results...
    Tags: loons loon
     

    Jump to date

    By Park

    By State/Territory

    By Event Type

    REPEATING EVENTS
    • Show
    • Hide
    Loading Events...

    Contact the Park

    Mailing Address:

    PO Box 177
    Bar Harbor, ME 04609

    Phone:

    (207) 288-3338

    Contact Us