Where are all the Loons?

July 25, 2017 Posted by: Hillary Robison, Lindsey Newhall, Eric Boyd
The National Park Service (NPS) Arctic Network monitors yellow-billed loon populations in Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

From the journal of Eric Boyd, NPS Biological Science Technician:
"As I flew over Bearing Land Bridge National Preserve surveying for loons, I understood how much of a sanctuary for birds it actually was.  Every body of water was occupied by at least one species of waterfowl.  But then there were also brown bears, caribou, reindeer, musk ox, moose, and more all in the same area.  The Serengeti of the north."

View of a yellow-billed loon swimming on a lake in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve as it appears to aerial observers.
Photo NPS/Melanie Flamme

The yellow-billed loon has a global population estimated at 16,650 - 21,000 birds.  Their breeding range in Alaska is restricted to large lakes on the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska north of the Brooks Range, and in western Alaska, including Bering Land Bridge and Cape Krusenstern. In 2005, results from aerial surveys funded by the NPS Arctic Network and conducted in and around those park lands generated population estimates for yellow-billed loons and nests. 

A view from the cockpit of a small plane as the pilot swerves his aircraft in search of loons nesting in marshes in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.Photo NPS/Melanie Flamme

Due to the loons’ small population size and restricted distribution, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently evaluating a petition to list this species as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The NPS most recently surveyed loons in June 2017. 

A pilot and passenger in a small plane make their final approach to the runway of the airport in Kotzebue.  Photo NPS

The National Park Service is mandated by the NPS's founding document, the National Park Service Organic Act, to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein... for the enjoyment of future generations."

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Last updated: July 25, 2017

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