Center for Loon Conservation
BRI’s Center for Loon Conservation offers an essential comprehensive resource for local and global communities concerned with loon preservation. Because of the breadth and depth of our expertise, we can provide leadership to address issues that have the potential to impact loon populations. Our research studies encompass a variety of ecological stressors: chemical toxins such as mercury or lead; habitat loss in breeding and wintering grounds as well as along migratory routes; and diseases such as avian influenza.
The Center is also actively involved in assisting state and regional conservation agencies in loon monitoring efforts, capture and banding efforts, and development of management plans to ensure long-term reproductive success.
BRI’s innovative approach to loon studies positions us at the forefront of research that has applications for conservation efforts and management. Currently, none of the five loon species are considered federally endangered, although the Yellow-billed Loon is being considered for federal listing and the Red-throated Loon is a species of concern on the Eastern Seaboard.
The Center for Loon Conservation is dedicated to assessing current and emerging threats to loons, and to collaboration with the many agencies and organizations that work to conserve loon populations throughout the world.
BRI began its history with the study of mercury contamination in the Common Loon. Research efforts have expanded to include additional species, such as Red-throated and Yellow-billed Loons, and to examine emerging threats to loon conservation, such as climate change. Our overall goal is to identify anthropogenic threats to loon populations and to develop research projects to mitigate those threats and help at-risk populations achieve self-sustaining levels.
Some of our current projects include:
- Winter Ecology of Loons, Gulf of Mexico
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill released more than 250 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Common Loon winters along the entire Gulf coast. In the winter of 2011, BRI sent a team of researchers to the area to catch wintering loons and observe them; this was the first time loons had ever been caught in that region. BRI uses satellite tags to track migration patterns and locate breeding sites. Lead researchers: Jim Paruk and Darwin Long.
- Yellow-billed Loon Migration and Ecology, North Slope, Alaska
Alaska, the only state in the U.S. where they breed, has a population of approximately 5,000 Yellow-billed Loons. Since 2007, BRI has studied Yellow-billed Loon migration and breeding ecology in collaboration with Joel Schmutz, Ph.D., of the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We established the first-ever color marked population, which allows us to gather individual and population-level data. This information will help land managers to better understand Yellow-billed Loon population growth and dynamics and to plan accordingly. Lead researchers: Dave Evers, Jim Paruk, and Jeff Fair.
- Red-throated Loon Winter and Migration Movements, Mid-Atlantic Coast
BRI is collaborating with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geologic Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Sea Duck Joint Venture, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and North Carolina Wildlife Resources to study the offshore use of diving birds in federal Mid-Atlantic U.S. waters. Information obtained will be valuable for decision makers to determine future locations for offshore wind development. Lead researcher: Carrie Osborne and Jim Paruk.
- Common Loons, Yellowstone National Park
The Yellowstone National Park breeding population of Common Loons has declined over the past decade. To better understand the reasons for the struggling loon breeding populations, BRI staff will work to create a dynamic and site-specific management plan to reverse the decline and establish a self-sustaining breeding population. Lead researchers: Dave Evers and Kate Taylor.
Monitoring loons is paramount to continued understanding of population trends. Our banding efforts encompass Maine, Massachusetts and New York. We also assist other states, including Washington, Wyoming, and Montana, in their monitoring efforts. As a result of research carried out on banded loon populations, laws designed to regulate and reduce mercury and lead have been implemented.
- Rangeley Lakes, Maine
BRI collaborates with NextEra Energy Resources and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to monitor more than 200 territorial pairs of Common Loons in western Maine. Current efforts characterize and monitor environmental contaminant loads, toxicity of contaminants toward ecological and human health, wildlife diseases (e.g., avian influenza), and ecological impacts from reservoir operations. BRI’s monitoring of Common Loons in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine is one of the longest and largest ongoing study in North America of Common Loon demographics and loon mercury levels. Lead researchers: Mike Chickering, Carrie Osborne, and Kate Taylor.
- Adirondack Mountains, New York
BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation conducts research to determine the status and trends in the Adirondack breeding loon population, the impact of mercury contamination on this population’s reproductive success, and the migratory patterns and wintering areas of Adirondack loons. This work is coordinated with similar research throughout northeastern North America to determine the effect of mercury contamination on the breeding loon population throughout the region. Lead researcher: Nina Schoch.
- GLMMR: Global Loon Mercury Monitoring and Research Cooperative
Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation
Initiated in 2009, BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation (ACLC) evolved from the former Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program. The Adirondack Park, a six-million-acre reserve in upstate New York, boasts hundreds of lakes and ponds—perfect breeding grounds for the Common Loon (Gavia immer). The ACLC is dedicated to improving the overall health of this environment, particularly the protection of air and water quality, through collaborative research and education efforts focusing on the natural history of the Common Loon and conservation issues affecting loon populations and their aquatic habitats.
The loon is a charismatic species that inspires poets and naturalists alike. From its haunting calls to the depths of its diving abilities, there is much to learn and appreciate about these birds. This section allows students, educators, and the general public to access a wealth of information pertaining to loons.
Loons are mysterious, beautiful, alluring birds. By “adopting” a loon, you can directly support the ongoing research efforts that help protect these magnificent animals. To learn more click here.
Loon Center Staff
Research Biologist/Loon Initiatives Coordinator: Kate Taylor
Research Biologist/ Loon Research and Monitoring Program Leader: Carrie Osborne Gray
Research Biologist/Winter Loon Program Coordinator: Darwin Long, IV
Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation Coordinator: Nina Schoch
Maine Program Coordinator: Mike Chickering
Adjunct Loon Research Biologists: Jeff Fair, Ken Wright
Collaborating Program Directors: Andrew Gilbert, Lucas Savoy, Chris DeSorbo, David Yates
Other Contributing BRI Staff: Dave Evers, Wing Goodale
BRI is an active member of the Northeast Loon Study Working Group (NELSWG), a consortium of federal and state agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations, which coordinates cooperative research focused on the health of loons in the Northeastern U.S.
Diver/Loon Specialist Group (DLSG) is an association of amateurs and professionals from all parts of the world interested in divers/loons. It forms part of the waterbird network of Wetlands International and The World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (IUCN-SSC). For more information concerning Wetlands International, see:http://www.wetlands.org.
Publications and Resources
|Evers, D. C. and K. M. Taylor. 2006. Call of the Loon. Willow Creek Press, Minocqua, WI. 112 pp.|
|Tekiela, Stan. 2006. Fascinating Loons Amazing Images & Behavior. Adventure Publications. Inc. Cambridge, MN. Pp 144.|
|Hutchinson, Alan and Silliker, Jr., Bill. 1998. Just Loons: A Wildlife Watcher's Guide. Willow Creek Press, Minocqua, WI.|
|Loon Preservation Committee. 2006. Meeting the Challenge Thirty Years of Preserving Loons and Their Habitats in New Hampshire. Loon Preservation Committee. Moultonborough, NH. Pp 26.|
Recent Media And Reports
BRI biologist Mike Chickering is featured in a National Public Radio broadcast.
You can listen to the full story here.
BRI biologist Mike Chickering is featured in a Maine Public Radio broadcast.
You can listen to the full story here.
THIRTY YEARS AGO, WHEN I RETURNED TO NEW HAMPSHIRE’S Loon Preservation Committee as its director, the outfit was distributing a brochure entitled !e Vanishing Loon.
In early 2012 Dr. Jim Paruk will be leading an Earthwatch Institute expedition studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the common loon population in the Gulf of Mexico.