Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Come and explore the coastal trails here at the Lloyd Center; it’s a great time to do some (sea)birding!  Now is a good time to get outside and enjoy the brisk weather (while it is still here) by the coast.  Here, you have the opportunity to find many different species of aquatic birds, including the common loon (Gavia immer).  Read on and learn a bit more about this unique seabird.

What makes the Common Loon (Gavia immer) so different from other seabirds and birds in general? 

First off, the loon has dense, solid bones, rather than hollow ones, and their webbed feet are found on the back of the bird, rather than underneath.  Both of these differences allow the loon to specialize in diving. The loon is able to go downwards of 200 feet for up to five minutes under water, but their average dive lasts less than a minute.

With the denser bones, are the loons at a disadvantage in flight?

Their size of 3 feet in length and a wingspan of 5 feet, their average weight is 9 lbs.  This, you would think, would slow the birds’ flight time, but contrary to popular belief, the loons are very strong fliers.  They have been recorded flapping their wings at a rate of 250 beats per minute, which allows them to fly at a speed of 80 mph! The main disadvantage they have is on land.  The common loon is unable to walk and take off from land because of the location of their webbed feet.

Loons are known for their bird songs.  What are the different calls of the loon?
The common loon has four different calls, a wail, tremolo, yodel and the hoot.

The wail sounds similar to a wolf howl; a high pitch “where-are-you?” that they use to locate other loons in their vicinity.

The tremolo has a similar call to nervous laughter.  They would use this call when they would either be excited or agitated.

The yodel call is used only by the male loons and it is a territorial call.  It dictates to the other loons that a male is in the area and is willing to defend its territory.

The hoot call is their “greeting” call.  It is the one they use to communicate with their chicks or other birds within a flock.