North America is home to five species of loons: the Red-throated Loon, the Pacific Loon, the Arctic Loon, the Yellow-billed Loon, and the Common Loon. Of these species, the Common Loon is the most widespread and well-known. It is the only loon species that breeds as far south as New Hampshire.
Loons are a migratory species that spend the breeding season on inland lakes and overwinter on the ocean. They arrive on their breeding lakes shortly after the ice goes out in the spring and remain late into the fall or early winter, often leaving for the ocean shortly before ice forms. Loons display high territory fidelity, and individuals typically return to the same breeding lake year after year. This often results in the same male and female loons pairing up and breeding together in consecutive years; however, contrary to popular belief, loons do not mate for life. If one member of a pair dies or is displaced by a rival, its mate will accept a new breeding partner.
The Call of the Loon
Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about loons is their haunting and variable voice.
During the breeding season, loons spend their days feeding, preening , resting, and caring for their young . Their diet in the summer consists primarily of fish, but they eat many other aquatic creatures as well.
Some loon behaviors are necessary for self maintenance. Others are performed in response to other animals, including humans. Learning to read loon behavior can help us to enjoy these birds without causing them distress.