Old News Archive

Maine Audubon Announces Record Low Number of Maine Loon Chicks

February 06, 2007 - TRC

FALMOUTH, Maine, February 5, 2007—Maine Audubon announced today that data collected this summer for the organization’s 23rd annual loon count reveals the second lowest estimate of Maine loon chicks in recorded history.

Based on a sample of 75 of the 319 lakes and ponds surveyed by Audubon volunteers in July, biologists estimate southern Maine’s loon population is 2,595 adults and 141 chicks.

The number of adults is down 14 percent from the all-time high of just over 3,000 adults last year. The number of chicks is down 55 percent from last year and is the second lowest chick estimate on record.

The low numbers are likely due to record rainfalls early in the summer, which increased lake water levels and flooded out many traditional loon nest sites located immediately on the shoreline.

“Summer 2006 was tough nesting season for loons,” says Susan Gallo, wildlife biologist at Maine Audubon and director of the organization’s Maine Loon Project.

The good news, says Gallo, is that the rain might have simply delayed nesting for Maine’s loons.

“It’s likely that the loon count, which is timed to catch chicks just off the nest in a typical season, happened this year when many birds were still incubating eggs. So more chicks may have hatched and survived after the count, and our estimate may be truly low.”

The bad news, according to Gallo, is that chicks that hatch later in the summer face a much higher level of boat traffic, anglers and people recreating on lakes and ponds.

Shoreline development, high levels of mercury and other toxins, lead sinkers and boats all pose problems to breeding loons and their chicks. Maine has the largest loon population in New England yet an extremely low chick survival rate compared to neighboring states. Maine Audubon launched a pilot study over the summer to begin to determine why.

The 2006 Maine Loon Count results from local lakes and ponds are now available at www.maineaudubon.org.

The Maine Loon Project is one of four volunteer citizen science-projects directed by Maine Audubon, which are supported this year in part by grants from the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust and the Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Foundation. More than 1,000 volunteers across the state help Maine Audubon monitor at-risk wildlife and habitats.

For more information, contact Maine Loon Project director Susan Gallo at (207) 781-2330, ext. 216.

Results for lakes and ponds statewide now available at www.maineaudubon.org

MAINE AUDUBON works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people of all ages in education, conservation and action.

Submitted by Marie Malin, Maine Audubon Society

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.