The Territory

May 24, 2022

I’ve used the term “territory” a number of times in these blogs. Perhaps I ought to define the term as it is used in wildlife ecology and discuss its implications. It often gets confused with “home range.” A home range is the total area that an individual uses on a regular basis, which can vary by season. A territory is the area an individual (or pair, in this case) will defend from intruders, particularly those of the same species (conspecific territoriality). When a loon pair is on the breeding lake their territory is their entire home range, with possible exceptions late in the season.

Loon territories in New Hampshire can be as small as 20 acres. On large lakes with many loon pairs close together their territories average around 40 acres. On smaller lakes that can only support one loon pair, the loons will typically consider the entire lake as their territory.

Our Loon Cam lake is under 100 acres and can only support one loon pair. Consequently, any visiting loon will be considered as a threat to the pair. Early yesterday there was a visiting loon on the lake. There was a lot of vocalization, including tremolos, and it was seen near the nest raft on one occasion. It may have been a lone loon looking for a territory to take over. It’s estimated that there are 100 or more single loons without territories in New Hampshire. Or it might be more likely that it was a curious loon from a nearby territory just scoping out the pond. This lake is in the heart of the Lakes Region and there are dozens of loons that could pop in by just flying a few minutes. Loons like to keep tabs on their neighbors. It’s always good to know your prospects in case you happen to lose your territory.

The short-lived and low-key confrontation between the loons makes me think it was just a nosy neighbor and not a loon looking to push one of our pair off the territory. Things rapidly returned to normal, and apparently without anyone getting a thrashing. Our pair is back to preparing for nesting. Any day now.