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The Loon Species is reported to be among the oldest group of birds still living today. Their history stretches back more than 50 million years. The Common Loon (Gavia immer) became Minnesota's state bird in 1961

Calls of the Loon:

  • Tremolo: known as the "laugh" used to signal alarm or worry

  • Wail: sounds like a "wolf's howl" used to gain contact

  • Yodel: produced only by males used as territorial marker



  • begins breeding at three or four years of age

  • typically mate for life

  • return to same lake/territory during breeding season

  • only go ashore to mate and incubate eggs

  • usually lay 1 to 2 large olive-brown eggs each season


  • can dive for about a minute

  • feathers are compressed and air is expelled from air sacs in the body

  • losing air allows them to sink below the surface to avoid danger


  • spend summers in northern lakes

  • spend winters on coastal seas, particularly inlets, bays and coves

Five Species of Loons:

  • Common Loon (Gavia immer)

  • Red-Throated Loon (Gavia stellata)

  • Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica)

  • Artic Loon (Gavia artica)

  • Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii)


  • molts twice a year, once in fall and again in late winter

  • Summer:

    • checkered black and white back

    • iridescent black head and neck

    • white necklace around throat

    • white underside

  • Winter:

    • dark gray above

    • white underside

Body Structure: (designed for swimming and diving)

  • weigh up to 14 pounds

  • large webbed feet for propulsion underwater

  • legs located far back on body for ease of movement in water but awkward movement on land

  • dense bones (rather than hollow) make body less buoyant for diving but causes flying to be more difficult

  • 42 to 58 inch wingspan for lifting their heavy bodies

  • large black spear-like bill for catching food


Loon Chicks:

  • incubation period 28-30 days after eggs are laid

  • can swim right away but spend much of their time on their parent's back for warmth, rest and protection from predators

  • independent and able to fly 12 weeks after hatching