Biodiversity Research Institute
Biodiversity Research Institute
Show menu Hide menu
Restore the Call - Massachusetts
Restore the Call - Massachusetts

Restore the Call - Massachusetts

Massachusetts is the only state where breeding loons were extirpated and have subsequently returned as a sustainable population. Common Loons have made a modest comeback since 1975—40 territorial pairs in 2014. However, the population of breeding pairs is primarily limited to Worcester County, located in the center of the state.

Lead Investigator: Lee Attix
Contributing BRI Staff: Mike ChickeringCarrie Gray, Michelle KneelandLucas Savoy, and Vincent Spagnuolo

See our loon biologists at work in this Migration Productions video, shot in Massachusetts in the summer of 2015.

Project Overview

Project Overview

Partnered with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), BRI is assessing the overall health and status of the Common Loon population in Massachusetts through surveys, banding efforts, and nonlethal sampling of blood, feathers, and abandoned eggs.

In 2014 and 2015, BRI, working in collaboration with MassWildlife and DCR, dedicated staff to support existing state agency loon survey efforts, while independently expanding statewide surveys to help fill in critical data gaps. Field research efforts emphasized broad survey coverage to assure a reasonable accounting of the current state population and productivity numbers, while gathering specific information on known breeding individuals, such as site fidelity through band returns.

Overall Study Goals

Overall Study Goals

  • Survey lakes with known breeding pairs or occasional loon sightings to confirm reproductive status
  • Identify and survey new lakes having suitable water quality and habitat to attract and maintain territorial pairs
  • Identify returning, color-marked loons to increase an understanding of site fidelity trends and dispersal
  • Continue efforts to color-mark new adult loons and chicks
  • Assist with the collection of abandoned or unviable eggs, which can be analyzed for contaminants
 

Study Region

Current loon populations are concentrated in the central region of the state with the majority of the population residing on Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs and nearby lakes. Statewide survey efforts in 2013-2015 were focused on central Massachusetts, with additional surveys in the Berkshires and southeastern Massachusetts to assess habitat and the potential presence of loons.
Current loon populations are concentrated in the central region of the state with the majority of the population residing on Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs and nearby lakes. Statewide survey efforts in 2013-2015 were focused on central Massachusetts, with additional surveys in the Berkshires and southeastern Massachusetts to assess habitat and the potential presence of loons.
Study Goals for 2015

Study Goals for 2015

Monitoring
A critical component of monitoring is to determine the cause of nest failure or chick loss.

  • Continue to use standardized survey methods to collect data about the number of territorial pairs, nesting pairs, location of nests, chicks hatched, and those surviving >six weeks of age.
  • Balance the use of monitoring of nesting loons with cameras, and required nest site visits, accounting for the possible negative impacts on a population known to be sensitive to human activity.

Research

An important part of tracking individual performance of loons is through unique color-marking and assessing mercury concentrations.

  • Continue to capture and band loons through traditional night capture of pairs with chicks, and further consider tracking individuals statewide using transmitters (e.g., satellite and nanotags).
  • Determine contaminant body burdens, specifically mercury and lead.
  • Continue to assess the physiological health of individual loons and compare with other populations.

Outreach

Disseminating information in a comprehensive and thorough way is key for improving loon productivity and expansion to new areas.

  • Continue discussions with MassWildlife and DCR to further define and develop the MA loon working group.
  • Discuss strategies with MassWildlife to increase awareness of the presence and requirements of loons, and work with state agencies, towns, lake associations, etc., to improve access to protected water for loon monitoring efforts.

Conservation and Management
Disseminating information in a comprehensive and thorough way is key for improving loon productivity and expansion to new areas.

  • Continue discussions with MassWildlife and DCR to further define and develop the MA loon working group.
  • Discuss strategies with MassWildlife to increase awareness of the presence and requirements of loons, and work with state agencies, towns, lake associations, etc., to improve access to protected water for loon monitoring efforts.
 
Project Funding

Project Funding

This project is part of The Ricketts Conservation Foundation 5-year Restore the Call scientific initiative, a national loon study that is being carried out by BRI.
Massachusetts Status Report for the Common Loon

MASSACHUSETTS STATUS REPORT FOR THE COMMON LOON

Restore the Call: Massachusetts Status Report for the Common Loon

The goal of the Restore the Call initiative is to strengthen breeding populations in their existing range and to restore loons to their former breeding range. This research will advance our understanding of loon ecology and allow us to apply that knowledge to help restore the integrity of ecosystems where loons once thrived. State working groups and associated conservation plans will be developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, MassWildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Download Status Report

 
Photo Credits: Header photo: © BRI-Jonathan Fiely; Biologists with loon © Shawn P. Carey; Loon © Shawn P. Carey; Loon taking flight © Daniel Poleschook
Biodiversity Research Institute