I love loons!
They are my favorite bird!
You may have noticed that with my “imprint” logo on my novels. Let’s talk a little about them, since I like them so much. Loons populate other regions, but, since I’m from the Adirondack Mountains, that’s where I’m focusing.
The loon population has more than doubled since the 1980s…bouncing back from when Adirondackers used to shoot them for sport, because they ate the same fish humans also used to catch…and then there was also the DDT poisoning in the 1940s and 50s that also killed them off. Yet, though loons have bounced back, there’s still today’s mercury poisoning. More than half of all male Adirondack loons have a moderate-to-high risk of mercury poisoning. This is not a good thing! The weird-assed thing about mercury poisoning and loons, is that mercury turns the birds into “bad parents” and causes them to produce fewer eggs. The affected loons also end up not spending the needed time in their nests keeping their eggs warm, then don’t take care of their chicks when they hatch…sometimes flat-out abandoning them altogether. Mercury is a neurotoxin, so it depresses the loons, makes them lethargic.
But, doom and gloom aside, loons, author William H.H. Murray wrote in 1869 that loons are “are the shyest and most expert swimmers of all waterfowl.” Loons can weigh up to 14 pounds and have serrated bills that can tear into anything it clamps down on. And, boy, can they put up a fight! According to the October 2013 Adirondack Life article, “Loonscape,” Gary Lee (an ex-NYS Forest Ranger) says, “Anything the can get hold of, they’ll bite it.” Lee says that during his work with them he’s been bitten on the forearm and thigh and they’ve gnawed on his pockets and jacket hems. In Lee’s own words, a male once gave him “a pretty good gash” another time.
The name “loon” comes from old English (“lumme” or “lummox“) or Scandinavian (“lum“), meaning “awkward” or “clumsy.” Their feet are located at the back of their body, so they don’t get around well on land, and their take-offs from water can be a bit clumsy. But here are some other neat facts about loons:
They love to hang out on the water all day with their best buds!
They have the coolest calls! Their hoots and tremelos make you go introspective…especially when you hear them at night or early, early morning…with a wispy fog on the lake before you….
They live almost exclusively on water…they avoid land except to nest and mate.
They dive under water and can hold their breath for 90 seconds! Dive down as deep as 200 feet!
Have a cool, red eyes that change in intensity…brighter when mating or defending their territory! Annnd this (somehow) helps them see underwater.
Loons carry their babies on their backs—which is so neat! What a neat ride on a lake, no?
I already mentioned they can weigh as much as a cat, which is because they have solid bones [versus hollow ones most birds have]. Besides allowing them dive under water, the heavy bones also allows them to lay lower in the water when floating. Kinda a real “badass” look!
And loons are one of the older species of birds: over 100 millions years old. Sure, they’re all supposed to have descended from the dinosaurs, but still, they’re an older species of dinosaur—I mean bird…
So, there’s a lot to like about loons and how they’re so scrappy and substantial in form, which I feel models the books I put out…scrappy and haunting…diving under the obvious into the depths of life. And how cool to meet up with some friends along the way and hang out and tell stories! And the gnarly red eyes…the tremelos of thoughts that make you think a little deeper into your own souls….
Loons. I love em.
- Wailing Loon (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- 9 Reasons Loons are the Best Birds (buzzfeed.com)
- Loon Fun Facts (ecobirder.blogspot.com)
- Loon Wiki (en.wikipedia.org)
- The Loon Lady (adirondacklifemag.com)
- Loons sound alarm on mercury pollution (northcountrypublicradio.org)