Hey guys, welcome back! Today, probably the most well known of the loon family, the aptly named Common Loon. Common Loons are famously found on the Canadian dollar (nicknamed the “loonie”) and are also found on the Minnesota state quarter. They are large waterbirds that are common on lakes throughout Canada and the northern U.S. in the summer. In winter, they stick mostly to the coastlines. You’ll notice that the ones pictured in this post aren’t sporting their signature black and white checkered plumage. These loons were photographed along the New York Atlantic coast in winter, and thus are wearing their winter plumage.
Loons are expert swimmers and can stay underwater for a very long time, often popping up well away from where they dove. One of the reasons they are such good swimmers, and can swim at deep depths, is that they have solid bones! Most birds have hollow bones, making them lighter, and able to fly easier. Because loons have solid bones, they are some of the heaviest birds. In fact, they’re so heavy that they need a “runway” to take off, so you’ll almost never see them on small bodies of water.
You may recall a while back when I did my Double-crested Cormorant post, that before I got into birding, I thought they were loons. Crazy, I know. I remember when I saw my first actual Common Loon. I actually remember the exact date too, because it was on my birthday! I caught wind that there was a Common Loon on the Reservoir in Central Park, and I was working that day. It was early April, cloudy, misty, and chilly. I walked around the Reservoir, and then, finally, I saw it! They are certainly large birds! Even watching them dive, they do so almost slowly and methodically. One winter, I went out to Ft. Tilden in Rockaway, Queens looking for wintering sea ducks. Although I didn’t see many (we’ll come to them further down the line in this blog), I did see my first Common Loon swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know why, but I’ve never really associated loons, or really much of any birds except gulls, with swimming in the ocean. Probably because whenever I am down at the beach, it’s summer, and there’s too many people to make seeing ducks/waterfowl close to shore possible.
Although New York was in the winter range of the Common Loon, there was, on occasion, in Central Park while I worked there, loons in their breeding plumage. It’s just too bad I wasn’t able to get a good pic of any of them! Join me next time when we talk about one of the smallest perching birds in North America, the Golden-crowned Kinglet. See you then!