Plants and Animals
Gavia immer Common loon
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
US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S3 - Vulnerable
|County||Number of Occurrences||Year Last Observed|
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.
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
- Emergent marsh
- Great lake, littoral, benthic
- Great lake, littoral, midwater
- Great lake, pelagic, benthic
- Inland lake, pelagic, midwater
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.
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.
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
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.
Visual survey, listen for call
Survey Period: From first week of May to fourth week of July
Time of Day: Daytime
Time of Day: Night
- Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.
- Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
- Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf, Toronto. 544pp.