For the third year in a row, the state’s population of adult common loons held steady at approximately 2,800 birds, according to a new survey by Maine Audubon.
The estimated population of loon chicks increased, however, from 384 in 2016 to 453 last year. It was the second year in a row the group’s estimate for loon chicks in Maine went up, after it estimated there were 218 in 2015.
“It’s fairly typical for chick counts to go up over time in a three- or four-year cycle, as happened in 2012-2014, 2003-2005, and 1998-2001,” Maine Audubon officials wrote in a release posted on the group’s website. “It’s probably nothing to get too excited about — though any time we are producing more chicks, we have the potential to see more adults in six or seven years [when the birds typically reach mature breeding age].”
Loons, known for their distinctive calls, are considered to have a healthy population in North America, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, though there are concerns about how human activity and climate change might be reducing their breeding territory in the U.S. They are aquatic birds, migrating from lakes and ponds in the summer to the ocean coast in the winter. Their typical range extends from the northern U.S. to throughout most of Canada and Alaska.
The group has conducted an annual count of the iconic Maine birds every summer since 1984 to monitor long-term trends in the population. Last July 15, close to 1,400 people participated in the effort at more than 300 lakes across the state. The numbers tallied in the survey then were used to extrapolate the estimated statewide loon population.
The last three annual counts for adult loons remain lower than the prior five-year period, from 2010 to 2014, which averaged just over 3,100 adults, the group indicated. The 2017 adult population estimate is about 70 percent higher than during the first five years of the count, from 1984 to 1988, when the annual average estimate was 1,674 adults.
The 2018 survey is scheduled for Saturday, July 21.
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