Dear Auntie Arloon……………
I just love my little loons, especially when they’re just hatched. But why do the chicksride on the parent’s back? Are they taking a rest from all that swimming?
Doris Dorsey, Backus Lake
This is a question Auntie is often asked. Considering that the chicks leave the nest soon after they hatch, it certainly is true that they may be taking a break. But there is more to it than that or Auntie Ar isn’t a lover of loons.
The newly hatched chicks are downy and are not waterproof because they don’t have their “roof” of feathers. So if the water is rough, the down may become waterlogged, just like a wet cotton ball. Because a wet chick can become chilled in early summer’s colder water, back riding is a way to keep warm.
Unfortunately, too, the young chicks are just a mouthful for an underwater predator, such as a snapping turtle or a large fish. Sensing danger, the parent encourages the chicks to hitchhike because these predators are reluctant to tangle with a large, defensive adult loon.
I wouldn’t be a real scientist if I left out the most important reason for those of us that love loons. Loon chicks ride on the adult’s back because “it is cute!” Just another reason for protecting these interesting birds. So enjoy your little passengers and care for them because we want them to grow up on Backus Lake.
P.S. Auntie Ar reports on “Get the Lead Out”. Riverside Marina in Bellaire MI and Butch’s Tackle and Marine in Clam Lake MI carry unleaded tackle. Be sure to ask for and purchase non-lead tackle at your local bait shop. Let Auntie know the name and location of stores that have non-lead tackle so we can include them on the website and in the newsletter.