The Rangeley Lakes study is the longest running monitoring effort of a uniquely color-marked loon population in North America. Shoreline nest placement and the loon's limited mobility on land make loon nests vulnerable to failure caused by water level fluctuations. Due to this sensitivity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and other wildlife agencies identified Common Loons as a species to be evaluated in connection with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing of reservoirs.
Partnered with Brookfield Renewable Energy and in cooperation with New Hampshire’s Loon Preservation Committee, BRI monitors nearly 200 territorial breeding pairs of Common Loons in northeastern New Hampshire and western Maine.
BRI biologists use nearly 80 artificial nesting islands (rafts) as the primary management tool in mitigating the impacts of water level fluctuations on nesting loons. Current efforts characterize and monitor the demographics of the breeding population, environmental exposure and effects of mercury and lead, incidence of diseases (e.g., avian influenza), and ecological impacts from reservoir operations.
Known for its rocky coastline, rolling mountains, and expansive forests, Maine is also home to approximately 2,600 water bodies that are larger than 10 acres in size.
Across this landscape, an estimated 1,700 territorial pairs of Common Loons breed each summer. With their haunting calls and distinctive black and white plumage, loons are emblematic of the north woods in this state. While this population of loons is healthy, current environmental threats require continuous loon monitoring and public outreach efforts to ensure this trend is not reversed.
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