The Loon Preservation Committee is urging lake users to stay a safe distance from common loons, which are now on nests in New Hampshire.
“If you find a nesting loon, give it plenty of space — 150 feet or more,” says Harry Vogel, senior biologist and executive director of the committee.
Lake users can help protect loons by using caution when boating or kayaking in areas in which loons build their nests, such as around small islands or in marshy areas, he said.
“Nesting loons display telltale signs when people are too close,” Vogel said in a news release. “They will flatten their bodies low over the nest and angle their heads toward the water. This helps loons become less visible and puts them in the perfect position to flush from the nest. A loon displaying this behavior feels threatened and is likely on the verge of leaving its nest to get to safety.”
If boaters see this behavior, says Vogel, they should slowly back away from the loon until the bird assumes a relaxed upright position.
“Loons can’t walk well on land, which makes them vulnerable,” Vogel said. “If humans get too close to their nests, incubating loons perceive it as a threat and will flush into the water to escape, leaving their eggs unprotected.”
The common loon is a threatened species in New Hampshire, the news release states.
Many animals, including raccoons, skunks, crows, ravens, and eagles, are opportunistic predators of loon eggs.
“If adult loons leave the nest due to human encroachment, those animals have a chance to (snatch) the eggs,” Vogel said. “Unattended eggs may also overheat or chill depending on weather conditions, which can kill the embryo developing inside the egg.”
To help the public get up-close looks at nesting loons without disturbing them, the Loon Preservation Committee has set up a live loon cam accessible via the organization’s website at www.loon.org. The pair on camera had one egg hatch Sunday and another on Monday.
“In New Hampshire, half of our loon pairs generally begin nesting by the first week of June,” says Vogel. “Our staff have already documented over 90 nests throughout the state, and we expect many more in the coming weeks.”
In 2019, Loon Preservation Committee biologists recorded 313 pairs of loons in New Hampshire, 218 of which nested. Over 50% of nesting loon pairs were protected by signs and rope lines placed around nests by Loon Preservation Committee biologists and volunteers. Signs and rope lines are used to alert boaters to the presence of a nest so that they do not inadvertently get too close.
“We do not put signs and ropes at every nest, only those that are most likely to be discovered by lake users” notes Vogel. “It’s best to use caution even if you don’t see a sign floated near the nesting loon.”
The Loon Preservation Committee monitors loons throughout the state as part of its mission to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.
To learn more about loons in New Hampshire, visit the Loon Preservation Committee on the web at www.loon.org or call the Loon Preservation Committee at (603) 476-LOON (5666).