The Loon Preservation Committee recorded its first pair of nesting loons this year on May 18. Since then, more than 40 additional pairs have begun incubating their eggs, with more expected in the next week. The peak time for loons to begin nesting is usually in early June. Loons incubate their eggs for 26 to 28 days, so many loon chicks hatch just before the July 4 holiday.
Nesting loons and loon chicks are vulnerable to disturbance as human activities increase on lakes, so the committee asks boaters to take the following precautions to help protect loons and ensure a good breeding year in the state:
Remain at least 150 feet (no wake distance) from a nesting loon, or more if the loon shows any signs of distress such as craning its neck low over a nest. When threatened by the close approach of humans, loons assume this head-down position and may flush from the nest into the water, leaving their eggs vulnerable to overheating, cooling or predation.
If boaters inadvertently cause a loon to flush from the nest, leave the area immediately to let the loon return to incubate its eggs.
Remain at least 150 feet from loons in the water, especially if the adults have chicks with them. If separated from their parents by boaters, loon chicks become vulnerable to predators.
In 2018, Loon Preservation Committee biologists recorded 226 pairs of nesting loons in New Hampshire, an increase of 24 from the previous year. This increase, according to a committee news release, was the result of several new loon territories being established, including both new territories on large lakes that already had at least one other pair of nesting loons and expansion onto previously unoccupied lakes. Of the 226, 47 nested on rafts — artificial islands that the group floats to help loons cope with water level fluctuations, predation and lack of suitable natural breeding sites.
Some 114 nesting pairs were protected with signs and rope lines, which help to ensure that boaters give nesting loons enough space.
Anyone wanting to observe nesting loons without putting the nest at risk by getting too close can do so at the Loon Preservation Committee’s LIVE loon cam at www.loon.org. The loon cam pair started nesting on May 24 and are expected to hatch between June 22 to 24. Highlights from the webcam can be viewed on the committee’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/LoonCenter).
Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected from hunting or harassment by state and federal laws. If you see a sick or injured loon, please call the committee (476-5666). If you observe harassment of loons, please contact the N.H. Fish and Game Department (271-3361) or Marine Patrol (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 at www.loon.org, or call 476-5666.