|Conservation status||Has disappeared from some former nesting areas owing to human disturbance on lakes in summer; acid rain may also reduce food supplies in breeding range. Has been protected on some breeding grounds in the northeast by volunteer "Loon Rangers" who patrol the lakes and help to educate the public about conservation. Projected to lose much of its breeding range as a result of climate change.|
|Habitat||Wooded lakes, tundra ponds, coastal waters. In summer mainly on lakes in coniferous forest zone, also beyond treeline onto open tundra. Chooses large lakes with ample room for takeoff and with good supply of small fish. In winter mainly on ocean, usually fairly shallow waters close to shore; also on large lakes and reservoirs that remain ice-free.|
Forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled mainly by feet. Before diving, may swim on surface with head forward and partly submerged to peer underwater. Small fish swallowed underwater, larger items brought to surface and eaten there.
2, rarely just 1. Olive, spotted with brown or black. Incubation by both sexes (female may do more), 24-31 days. Young: Leave nest within 1 or 2 days after hatching, can dive and swim underwater at 2-3 days. Young are tended and fed by both parents; when small, sometimes ride on parents' backs. Capable of flight at about 10-11 weeks after hatching. One brood per year.
Leave nest within 1 or 2 days after hatching, can dive and swim underwater at 2-3 days. Young are tended and fed by both parents; when small, sometimes ride on parents' backs. Capable of flight at about 10-11 weeks after hatching. One brood per year.
Mostly small fish. Includes fish up to about 10" long such as minnows, suckers, perch, gizzard shad, rock cod, killifish, many others. Also crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, leeches, frogs. Sometimes aquatic plants such as pondweeds and algae.
Apparently first breeds at age of 2 years. Nesting territory claimed by "yodeling" song, also by flying in circles over territory with loud calls. In courtship displays, pairs dip bills in water repeatedly; rear up to vertical posture with wings partly spread; race side by side across surface of water. Nest: Built by both sexes. Site always very near water, on island or shore, partly hidden by surrounding vegetation. Nest, often re-used from year to year, is a mound of grasses, twigs, reeds.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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In coastal areas, migrates singly or in small flocks just offshore, often low over water; usually flies higher when migrating over land. Large numbers may pause in migration on Great Lakes and other inland waters.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsBest-known call a loud, wailing laugh, also a mournful yodeled oo-AH-ho with middle note higher, and a loud ringing kee-a-ree, kee-a-ree with middle note lower. Often calls at night and sometimes on migration.
Learn more about this sound collection.