Biodiversity Research Institute
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Loon Program
Loon Program

BRI’s Loon Program is dedicated to assessing current and emerging threats to loons, and to collaborating with the many agencies and organizations that work to conserve loon populations across the Northern Hemisphere. Our research and conservation projects contribute to understanding basic ecology and strive to unravel the impacts of ecological stressors and how they can be lessened. 

The Program is also actively involved in assisting state and federal conservation and management agencies in monitoring efforts that include the capture, banding, sampling, and tracking of individual loons and their populations. We publish our findings through reports, management plans, and communications pieces to inform decision makers and the general public. 

Innovative Wildlife Science at Work

The Program’s innovative approach uses information from known individuals (through color-banding, geolocators, and satellite transmitters) and has population-level applications for conservation and management efforts. While studies over the past 29 years have emphasized the Common Loon, similar field efforts with the Yellow-billed Loon began in 2004. Studies involving the Red-throated Loon began in 2000 and have expanded over the past several years. Ancillary studies tracking productivity and movements of Pacific Loons are ongoing.

Loon research by BRI biologists began in 1989 with the discovery of a replicable nighttime capture method, which facilitated the ability to track individual movements and health. This capture method is responsible for the banding and recapture of more than 5,000 Common Loons. A daytime technique has since been developed that now contributes to the capture, marking, and sampling of other species of loons, including the Yellow-billed Loon, Red-throated Loon, and Pacific Loon. The ability to safely and regularly capture individual loons over time provides a way to track individual performance and health that can be related at population-level scales.

2020 International Loon/Diver Symposium


BRI is hosting the 2020 International Loon/Diver Symposium, October 19-21 in Portland, Maine.

Our goal for this symposium is to bring together researchers, conservationists, resource managers, and other experts to share knowledge and expertise for the purpose of advancing loon conservation.

Click here to learn more about the symposium and to sign up for our mailing list for updates on this event.

The overarching goal of the Loon Program is to develop applied methods that can be used to (a) better understand loon ecology, and (b) lessen anthropogenic threats to at-risk populations. The major categories of our scientific research and conservation efforts include:
Common Loon Research and Restoration <br/>Across North America

Common Loon Research and Restoration
Across North America

The Common Loon is a key bioindicator of aquatic integrity for lakes and nearshore marine ecosystems across North America. BRI has conducted research throughout the United States and Canada, to identify major threats to loons while also creating solutions that strengthen current populations and restore loons to their former breeding range. Learn more about research efforts in the following states and provences: 

Common Loon Translocation

Common Loon Translocation

In 2013, biologists from BRI began one of the largest loon studies ever conducted. The initial five-year scientific initiative, named Restore the Call, aimed to strengthen and restore Common Loon populations within their existing and former range. Research efforts originally focused on three U.S. breeding populations from the western mountains to the Atlantic seaboard; these efforts included translocation, moving individual loon chicks from one area to repopulate another area. 

Through this process, BRI has developed detailed translocation protocols and practices so that this method of loon restoration can be replicated in ongoing and future projects. Learn more below.

Monitoring Specific Species

Monitoring Specific Species

The Loon Program is actively conducting studies on four of the five species of loons found worldwide: Common Loons; Yellow-billed Loons; Red-throated Loons; and Pacific Loons. Efforts are concentrated on breeding areas for each of the four species, with an emphasis on the Common Loon and on the other three species at the Program’s biostation on the tundra southeast of Barrow, Alaska (in our 9th year at that site in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey). Migration studies are limited to monitoring species using satellite transmitters. Winter studies are focused on Common Loons (in Louisiana and South Carolina) and Red-throated Loons (in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia).

Our Common Loon-specific projects are listed above by state or provence. Other species-specific loon monitoring projects include:

Advisory Roles in Loon Conservation

Advisory Roles in Loon Conservation

BRI has established itself as global experts on loon biology, restoration, and conservation, and works closely as an advisor or collaborator with the following organizations:

Bald Eagle and Common Loon Interaction Form


As part of a collaborative effort among wildlife researchers to better understand the effect of increasing Bald Eagle populations on Common Loon populations, BRI is seeking information on observed interactions between the two species.

If you have observed an interaction between Bald Eagles and Common Loons, please share your observation with us through our Bald Eagle and Common Loon Interaction Form. Thank you!

Left: Bald Eagle and Common Loon encounter on Bow Lake, NH. © Jon Winslow

Program Director
Lucas Savoy
207-839-7600 x104

Program and Contributing Staff
Alex Dalton
Bill Hanson
Shearon Murphy
Chris Persico
Kate Taylor
Tim Welch

Adjunct Loon Research Biologists 
Lee Attix
Jeff Fair
Jim Paruk

Photo Credits: Header: © Daniel Poleschook. Portraits: Common Loon and Bald Eagle © Jon Winslow; Common Loon © Daniel Poleschook; Yellow-billed Loon © BRI-David Evers; Red-throated Loon © BRI-David Evers; Pacific Loon © BRI-Lucas Savoy. Book Jacket by RavenMark. Restore the Call © Daniel Poleschook; Contaminants Monitoring © Vincent Spagnuolo; Population Dynamics © Daniel Poleschook; Movements © Daniel Poleschook; ACLC logo by Jason Smith; Yellow-billed Loon © Ken Wright. Photocam © BRI. Loon capture © BRI-Jonathan Fiely.
Biodiversity Research Institute