Seasonal Changes in Loons

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loon-winter-plumage
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Physical Changes

A loons plumage changes dramatically between the breeding and non-breeding seasons.  In summer they wear a distinctive black and white checkered pattern with a black head and white underside.  In the winter they turn entirely gray.

Another distinctive feature of a loon is their red eyes.  These too change color in winter.  They turn from red to gray!

Migration

loon-migration-map

Loons return from their winter locations to the northern lakes in April or May.  The green shows their summer locations.

Loons leave the lakes and head to the ocean in late October or early November.  They are never found more than a mile or two off shore.

Territories

When a loon is between 2-5 years old it returns to the lakes to breed.  Male loons usually return to areas close to where they were born.  This is not true with females.

loon

Usually both male and female loons will visit many different lakes before settling on one to breed. When 4-5 years old,  both male and female loons tend to  settle in a vacant territory with a mate and thus claiming a new territory. If they have not acquired a territory by 6-8 years of age, however, they usually attempt to seize a territory from an established owner after a violent and prolonged territorial battle. Such battles can be dangerous. In fact, about one-third of all territorial takeovers among males result in the death of the displaced male owner.

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The iconic yodeling and moaning calls that are heard day and night during the breeding season are not heard during the wintering season.  Their days are spent in solitude and in the evening they gather together in groups.

Global warming and human disturbance is having an impact on the breeding locations of loons.   They are starting to move further north to breed and they eventually will not breed in the US any longer.  This will be a sad day.

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Author Bio

I discovered leather as a medium when I was a college student in 1977 and fell in love.  My summers were spent on Lake Winnipesaukee, here in NH, and that is where I first encountered loons.

Loons soon became the focal point of much of my work.  I set out to create functional, and durable leather products with original loon scenes so Loon enthusiasts could enjoy them year round.  My hope is that my handmade leather goods will become lifelong treasures and forever keepsakes.

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