Committee: Loons on nests throughout NH

MOULTONBOROUGH – The Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) recorded its first pairs of nesting loons this year on May 17. Since then more than 80 loon pairs have begun to incubate eggs, with more expected in the next week. The peak time for loons to start nesting is usually in early June, followed by a four week incubation period, which means many loon chicks hatch just in time for the July 4 holiday.

Loon pairs on nests or adults with chicks are vulnerable to disturbance as human activities on the lakes increase so the committee asks boaters to follow these simple precautions to help ensure a good year for loons in New Hampshire:

– Stay back at least 150 feet from a nesting loon, or more if the loon shows any signs of distress such as craning its neck low over a nest. Loons may even appear to be injured or dead while in this head-down position, but it is a stress response to the close approach of people.

– If boaters inadvertently cause a loon to flush from the nest, leave the area immediately to let the loon return to incubate its eggs. Time off the nest leaves the eggs vulnerable to cooling, overheating, or predation.

In 2017, Loon Preservation Committee biologists recorded 202 pairs of nesting loons in New Hampshire, a decrease of six pairs from the previous year. This decrease was likely due in part to the large amount of rainfall received in the spring of 2017, which left many traditional nesting sites underwater at the beginning of the breeding season. Forty-four of those pairs nested on rafts – artificial islands that LPC floats to help loons cope with water level fluctuations or being displaced from natural sites by shoreline development or recreational activity on the lakes. Of the 202 nesting pairs, 88 pairs (44 percent) were protected by signs and ropelines, and half of the loon chicks hatched around the state came from a raft or from nest sites protected by a sign &/or ropeline. Even with this level of management, LPC biologists recorded 107 failed nests in 2017. Last year was among the top five worst years for nesting success in LPC’s long history of monitoring loons in New Hampshire. Human disturbance, black flies, flooded nests and intruding loons are all factors that contributed to the low productivity.

Anyone wanting to observe a loon on a nest can do so at the Loon Preservation Committee’s LIVE loon cam at www.loon.org. The loon cam pair started nesting on May 25 and the expected hatch date is between June 20-22. Highlights from the webcam can also be viewed on the Loon Preservation Committee’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/LoonCenter.

Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected by state and federal laws from hunting or harassment. If you see a sick or injured loon, call the Loon Preservation Committee at 476-5666 or if you observe harassment of loons, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 271-3361 or Marine Patrol at 293-2037 for assistance.

The Loon Preservation Committee monitors loons throughout the state as part of its mission to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world. To learn more about loons in New Hampshire, visit the Loon Preservation Committee on the web at www.loon.org or call the committee at 476-LOON (5666).

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