Few birds captivate the imagination and the symbolism of the north woods as much as the common loon (Gavia immer). This large bird is most notably seen and associated with the Northern states. However, what many do not realize is that Connecticut serves as a primary pathway and sanctuary to migrating and overwintering loons.
Easton, Conn. has some of the few bodies of freshwater large enough to support loon migration in Fairfield County. Every year, during the early spring, the common loon uses these areas as a “pit stop” during their journey north for the breeding season. Loons are very heavy birds, weighing up to 15 pounds, and they need a large area to take off. The Saugatuck and Aspetuck reservoirs are a common spot to find migrating loons, which can be seen regularly during their migration patterns.
Loons are majestic birds, but behind their beauty comes a raw fierceness that should be respected. Just this year, the Loon Preservation Committee received a report that a common loon had killed a bald eagle while defending its chick from the large bird of prey. Although bald eagles are a major enemy of loons, their top threat remains unrivaled — humans!
Common loon chicks rely on their parents’ protection even more than most other birds. Once hatched, it takes a short amount of time until the chicks are in the water. Loon chicks are vulnerable to being eaten when the parents leave them alone, and kayakers and boaters can unwittingly endanger chicks by getting too close and separating the young loons from the parents. This is why it is important for humans to keep their distance when viewing any species of wildlife, regardless of one’s degree of familiarity or level of curiosity.
In the next couple of months, loons will be returning to the southern areas of New England. Many of these loons will be from this year’s hatch. Keep an eye out on your next walk around the Aspetuck or Saugatuck reservoirs, and maybe you will hear the majestic call of the common loon!
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