A common loon with chicks. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Audubon

Maine’s annual loon count showed a slight drop in the number of birds, but the population appears strong and steady, Maine Audubon said Monday.

Common loons live on Maine’s lakes and ponds, and are known for their plaintive call. Volunteers count the birds every July.

Maine Audubon said it estimates, based on the 2019 count, that there 3,219 adults and 372 loon chicks below the 45th parallel in Maine. The 2018 count found 3,269 adults and 406 chicks.

Volunteers surveyed lakes in northern Maine in 2019, but Maine Audubon spokeswoman Melissa Kim told the BDN not enough birds were counted for the organization’s scientists to estimate the loon population above the 45th parallel.

The number of adults is more than twice the count from the mid-1980s, and the number of chicks has also trended up over the decades, according to data from Maine Audubon.

The 2019 count might have been slightly down from the year before because heavy spring rains flooded some nests, causing some eggs to be lost. Some counters also said they found loons abandoning nests due to high numbers of black flies.

The count is up long term because of laws that restrict boating speeds and new restrictions on lead fishing tackle, which can poison the birds, Maine Audubon said.