Frequently Asked Loon Questions
Table of Contents

1. Why does that loon have his head underwater?
2. Do loons mate for life?
3. Does the male's yodel stay the same over time?
4. How long do loons live?
5. Where can I see loons in Michigan?
6. When do loons migrate to Michigan?
7. A loon is a duck, isn't it? Or is it a goose?
8. What do I do if I find an injured or dead loon?
9. How can I help Michigan's Loons?
10. What is an ANI?

Why does that loon have his head underwater?
The loon is probably peering under the water, looking for fish, or maybe it's an adult looking for underwater predators that could harm the chicks. Loons are a visual predator, and therefore must have clear water to find their food or avoid underwater danger.

Do loons mate for life?
Some loons may mate for life. It has been shown though, that loons do take a new mate in the event of a mate's death or displacement by another loon. About 20% may have a new mate each year. It seems that loons are actually more faithful to a nesting site than to a mate.

Does the male's Yodel stay the same over time?
Until recently, it was thought that the males territorial song, the Yodel, remained static and could thus be used to "voice tag" them, making it easier to study loons and their nesting and territorial habits. This has been proven wrong by Dr. Charles Walcott of Cornell University, in research conducted at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. A male that lost his territory to another was found to change his yodel as determined by the audiospectrograph, or voice tag.

How long do loons live?
Loons are a long lived bird, much like any other low rate reproducing bird such as eagles. They are probably not sexually mature until about 7 years of age, and they may live for as long as 30 years.

Where can I see loons in Michigan?
The best place to reliably see loons is at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Though less accessible, Isle Royale National Park has the highest concentration of loons in Michigan.

When do loons migrate to Michigan?
The spring migration begins with the loons heading north from their winter homes on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico as northern ice recedes. Northernmost males arrive on their home lakes as soon as the ice is out- often within just hours. This implies that they stage on the Great Lakes and other open water areas and scout as the ice goes out. On the more southern lakes (and Michigan represents the southern boundary of the Common Loon) most male loons are on territory by around the first of April, assuming ice has already gone out. In both cases, the females follow later. Young birds return for the first time at two to three years of age.

A Loon is a duck, isn't it? Or is it a goose?
Actually, loons are neither. Though a waterbird, a loon is an entirely different kind of duck, er, not a duck. It's a genus called Gavia, and the species name of our Common Loon is immer. In the old world, loons are called divers. We all call them one of the most beautiful birds ever seen.

What do I do if I find an injured loon?
1. If you are a Loon Ranger, call your Area Coordinator.

2. If you are not a Loon Ranger, and know who the county Area Coordinator or local Rangers are, call them immediately.

3. You may also call the MI Loonwatch State Coordinator, Joanne Williams: 989-828 6019 or Arlene Westhoven: 231-599-3132 or 231-796-6153. Either one can advise you.

4. You must notify your DNR District Field Office within an hour of picking up and having the loon, to log in that you are holding it for transport to assistance. They may be able to provide you with a number of a rehabilitation center. They also may be able to assist in capturing the injured loon.

5. If not, your local Conservation Officer, Sheriff's Department or State Police may be able to provide information to you, and/or to assist you in capturing the loon and/or transporting it to aid.

6. If you are unable to obtain help from the official agencies, and there is a wildlife rehabilitation center in your area that is equipped to capture and/or care for injured loons, contact them for possible assistance in recovering the bird and for its care.

7. State and Federal permits are not required if you have notified the DNR (even by leaving a message to check in that you have the bird) that you are in possession of an injured loon. It may be held for a relatively short period of time if you are in the process of transporting the bird to assistance with the knowledge of the DNR.

8. State and Federal permits are required to hold a dead loon or an injured loon for any length of time beyond transporting it to assistance.


What do I do if I find a dead loon?
1. Call your Area Coordinator immediately if you are a Loon Ranger.

2. If you are not a Ranger, and know who the county Area Coordinator or Loon Rangers are, call them immediately.

3. You should also notify the MI Loonwatch State Coordinator, Joanne Williams 989-828-6019, or Arlene Westhoven: 231-599-3132 or 231-796-6153.

4. Notify the District DNR office as soon as possible after picking up the bird, within a couple of hours. A DNR field representative may be able to come and pick up the loon if you are unable to take it there.

5. Double-wrap the bird in plastic bags (because of parasites) and put it into a freezer if possible until it can be taken to the nearest District DNR office for transport to Rose Lake Pathology Laboratory in East Lansing.

6. Do not perform or allow to be performed any so-called "field necropsies". The loon needs to be received by Rose Lake without any contamination from being cut into.

7. A Threatened and Endangered Species Report Form is required to accompany the loon carcass being held or in transport. This form will be provided to you by the Area Coordinator or the State Coordinator.

MI DNR Wildlife Management Units:

Western UP: Crystal Falls 906-875-6622

Eastern UP: Newberry 906-293-5131

Northeastern: Gaylord 989-732-3541

Northwestern: Cadillac 231-775-9727

Saginaw Bay: Bay City 989-684-9141

Southeastern: Livonia 734-953-0341

South Central: Morrice 517-625-4600

Southwestern: Plainwell 616-685-6851

How can I help Michigan's Loons?
Educate yourself about the Common Loon. Join the MLPA. Contribute money to the MLPA. Volunteer to help us. There are many jobs that need to be done, and you can be a part of it.

What is an ANI?
An ANI is an Artificial Nesting Island. It is just what it says, an artificial island constructed of cedar, PVC or plastic barrels to support a loon nest. An ANI may be placed in Michigan only with the permission of the MLPA area coordinator. Instructions for its construction and placement will be supplied. They are used only as a "last resort" after repeated failures in natural nesting. With habitat loss, water fluctuation, and continuing development, they will likely be used more commonly in Michigan in the future.

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