Gavia immer
Common loon

Key Characteristics

The Common loon is a large, heavy-bodied bird, averaging 32 inches (81.3 cm) in length, with a wingspan of about 5 feet (1.5 m). In breeding plumage, its head and dagger-like bill are dark, its breast white, and its back is a distinctive black and white checkerboard pattern.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T
  • State Rank: S3
  • Global Rank: G5

Occurrences

County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona112015
Alger352015
Allegan11985
Alpena42011
Antrim72015
Baraga212004
Barry72015
Benzie62015
Charlevoix92015
Cheboygan172015
Chippewa212015
Clare212015
Crawford82015
Delta51998
Dickinson182014
Emmet82014
Gladwin42011
Gogebic1142015
Grand Traverse232015
Houghton92009
Iosco72015
Iron662015
Isabella11996
Kalkaska172015
Keweenaw502011
Lake172015
Leelanau72003
Luce92004
Mackinac212006
Manistee42011
Marquette342015
Mason22015
Mecosta332015
Missaukee72015
Montcalm62006
Montmorency242015
Newaygo122015
Oakland11952
Oceana32012
Ogemaw252015
Ontonagon102015
Osceola102015
Oscoda82015
Otsego142015
Presque Isle172015
Roscommon72004
Schoolcraft432015
Wexford52015
Distribution map for Gavia immer

Updated 1/31/2017. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.

Habitat

Typically, Common loons nest in sheltered islands on large, undeveloped inland lakes, although they may nest in lakes as small as 11 acres (4.5 hectares). Preferred nest sites are on small islands or bog mats, at the water’s edge. Nursery areas - quiet, shallow, sheltered coves - are important for rearing chicks.

Natural Community Types

Methodology

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Feel free to send questions and comments to Brad Slaughter at slaugh14@msu.edu.

Management

Loons are sensitive to human disturbance during the breeding season. Minimize maintenance activities within 1/4 mile of active nests during the breeding season. Nursery areas may be vulnerable also. Schedule construction, maintenance, or habitat management activities during the non-breeding season, from September through February. Application of herbicide to control aquatic vegetation should only be conducted outside the nesting season on lakes where loons nest, particularly on small lakes.

Active Period

Migration from second week of March to third week of May

Nesting from first week of May to fourth week of July

Migration from third week of October to third week of December

Survey Methods

Loons are easily surveyed by visually checking suitable habitat from shore or a boat throughout the day. Their presence may also be detected by their distinctive calls, which may be heard day or night.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/explorer [Accessed Apr 28, 2017]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract

References

Survey References

Technical References

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