Paddle Antrim and Common Coast Research & Conservation encourage the public to help protect Common Loons during their nesting season.

As the weather is getting warmer, more people are recreating on our waterways just as Northern Michigan’s Common Loons are initiating their nests. Loons, who remain a threatened species in the state, breed in many places along the Chain of Lakes Water Trail, as well as within other waterways in the region.

Most loon pairs along the Trail utilize conspicuous artificial nesting platforms deployed every spring by lake associations and residents. An adult who is incubating on a platform or small natural island is extremely sensitive to disturbance, and will respond to the close approach of a boat or kayak by flushing from the nest. This leaves eggs exposed to potential predators and inclement weather; additionally, loon pairs will often abandon their nesting attempt after such disturbances.

When paddling or boating, please use “binocular range” when encountering an active loon nest. An incubating adult who is hunkered, with its head low near the ground, is signaling that you are too close, and that it is about to flee into the water. The tremolo call – often described as crazy laughter – is another signal of disturbance. After the successful hatch of one or two chicks, this same call is given when loon families are approached too closely.

“From July through September, users of the Water Trail will have opportunities to enjoy loon families at relatively close range if during prior months a very wide berth is given to loon nests and to young chicks, who are particularly vulnerable given their inability to dive in response to threats,” says Damon McCormick, a wildlife biologist with Common Coast.

Common Coast Research & Conservation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit involved in efforts to protect conservation-dependent species such as the Common Loon, Purple Martin, and Black Tern. Common Coast also addresses emerging issues related to invasive species and disease outbreaks through monitoring and research.