|Loon with chick perched on back. (Internet download).|
Not in the newspaper column:
- Loons do not start to breed until 3-5 years old, possibly because need to be completely adult to compete for breeding territory.
- When males fight to death, it is almost the defending male that dies; an intruder that is losing a battle will retreat to try somewhere else.
- Although taking off is a strenuous process requiring hundreds of feet of space to build up speed, one in the air loons are vigorous fliers that reach speeds of 75 mph.
- Newly hatched chicks can swim within hours, but will needs about ten weeks of parental feeding and care before being able to fly, and exist on their own.
- Young chicks will often perch on a parent's back, for safety from predators such as pike or snapping turtles. Grebes are another family of bird species with the same behavior.
- When feeding, loons move slowly across the water, sticking their heads under the surface to look for fish. Loons are daytime, hunt-by-sight feeders, and so need to be on bodies of clear water. Small fish will be swallowed before rising back to the surface, so not seeing a loon surface with a fish does not mean that it failed.
- To dive, loons tighten muscles under the skin. This forces out air trapped by the feathers, allowing them to swim under water with neutral or negative buoyancy. Once back to the surface they fluff their wings and body feathers to retrap air.
- Loons eat 10-15% of their body weight every day! Mostly fish, but also frogs, crayfish, dragonfly nymphs, salamanders, leeches...
- Loons, like many other bird species, swallow pebbles that will stay in the gizzard, to aid in physically grinding swallowed fish into small pieces. A cause of illness and death is swallowing lead fishermans' sinkers, and being acutely lead poisoned.