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Portland, ME—In cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and as part of its Restore the Call research initiative on the Common Loon, Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) is calling on volunteers to help this summer with loon sightings on Minnesota lakes south of the Twin Cities.
“The generous assistance of hundreds of volunteers allows Minnesota’s DNR to monitor loons each year on more than 600 lakes in northern and central parts of the state, which in turn is invaluable to wildlife research efforts,” says Carrol Henderson, head of the Minnesota DNR Nongame Wildlife and Education Unit. “This summer we hope to expand this volunteer network into the southern region of the state to help with BRI’s Restore the Call project.”
Volunteers and visitors to Minnesota lakes south of the Twin Cities are asked to report any banded Common Loons sighted on lakes within a 10-mile radius of Waterville, Minnesota, during the months of June and July. Please identify the date and area where the sighting took place, and the colors of any leg bands, and the behavior of the loon. Photos of any observed loons are encouraged.
Funded in 2013 by the Ricketts Conservation Foundation, Restore the Call is a five-year science-based initiative to strengthen and restore loon populations within their existing and former range. In cooperation with the Minnesota DNR, BRI began a pilot study to develop a first-of-its-kind restoration technique, translocating Common Loon chicks from northern to southern Minnesota.
“Thanks to the collaborative work with Minnesota’s DNR, we have developed a safe and replicable approach to translocate loon chicks,” says David Evers, Ph.D., BRI’s executive director and a leading expert on loon ecology and conservation.
During the 2014 and 2015 breeding seasons, BRI researchers successfully translocated 12 chicks (five in 2014; seven in 2015) from the large breeding populations in northern Minnesota to unoccupied lakes in the southern portions of their historical range. The restoration site was carefully chosen to include safe nesting habitat, high water clarity, and an aggregation of lakes large enough to support a number of loon pairs.
Loon chicks were moved at the age of six to 10+ weeks, when they are nearing independence or are fully independent. Younger chicks were initially kept in pens on the rearing lake, where a team of wildlife veterinarians and loon biologists monitored their health and food intake and recorded behavioral data as the chicks adjusted to their new environment. Once the chicks were determined to be healthy, they were released onto the rearing lake. Older chicks that were more independent were released directly onto target habitat.
For translocation to be successful, chicks will have to return to southern Minnesota to breed. However, young loons stay in the Gulf of Mexico for three years before returning north for the first time to join the breeding population. Long-term monitoring will help determine the success of the southern population.
“While restoring bird species to their former range is an accepted conservation practice, it has never been conducted for the Common Loon,” says Evers. “We are beginning our fifth breeding season of this milestone study, and now, we are anticipating our first year when translocated loons may return to the lakes where they fledged.”
The loon is a key bioindicator of the health of our lakes as well as near shore marine ecosystems across North America. The Restore the Call study area encompasses national parks and other public lands in the West (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), the Midwest (Minnesota); and the Northeast (Maine, Massachusetts, and New York).
To report a sighting of a banded Common Loon in southern Minnesota, contact BRI at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For current news and updates on this project, visit: www.briloon.org/restore-the-call-overview-page
Funding for this project has been provided by the Ricketts Conservation Foundation, which was formed by Joe Ricketts to support the conservation of wildlife and natural resources. Underlying the Foundation’s mission is the reality that government no longer has sufficient resources to deal effectively with the growing environmental challenges we face.
The mission of Biodiversity Research Institute is to assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and to use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers. BRI’s Loon Program, a part of its Center for Waterbird Studies, offers an essential resource for local and global communities concerned with loon conservation. Our research studies encompass a variety of ecological stressors: chemical toxins; habitat loss in breeding and wintering grounds and along migratory routes; and diseases. www.briloon.org/loons
© 2018 Biodiversity Research Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit