Biodiversity Research Institute
Biodiversity Research Institute
Show menu Hide menu
Loon Program - Wyoming
Loon Program - Wyoming

Loon Research in Wyoming

The Common Loon is listed by Wyoming Game & Fish as a Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need and is considered the rarest breeding bird in Wyoming. The population of only 21 territorial pairs can be found on lakes in the northwest portion of the state in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. These loons are at the southern extent of the species' range and are isolated by over 200 miles from the nearest breeding population.

Lead Investigators: David Evers and Lucas Savoy
Contributing BRI Staff: Chris Persico, Kate Taylor, and Jeff Fair

 

Have You Seen a Loon?

BRI researchers have marked Common Loons across western North America with colored leg bands. Color-marking and resighting of loons allows us to monitor breeding individuals, calculate annual return rates to territories, track local movements and migratory routes, and determine overwintering areas.

You can help us track loons. If you see a loon, you can let us know. Download the information here.

Project Overview

Project Overview

In Wyoming, the Common Loon is the rarest breeding bird; they are listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need, as determined by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. In 2012, Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), in partnership with Yellowstone National Park (YNP), initiated a study to monitor and understand the local breeding loon population. In 2013, BRI created a dedicated working group in collaboration with governmental agencies including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. The goals of BRI within the Wyoming Loon Working Group are to ensure that Wyoming’s small and isolated breeding population of Common Loons is self-sustaining. A wider understanding of loon ecology and threats will be important to assist governmental agencies with management and outreach efforts.

 

Wyoming’s landscape is a study in contrasts, from shortgrass prairies and sagebrush steppes to the stunning peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

Yellowstone National Park is dedicated to preserving the state’s natural environments and native species. One such species, the Common Loon, is in danger of disappearing. Since the mid-2000s, this population has declined by nearly 42 percent and is considered one of the most southern populations in its range.

The Common Loon is considered the highest ranked Species of Greatest Need by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Download Status Report

 

Have You Seen a Banded Loon?

BRI researchers have marked Common Loons across western North America with colored leg bands. Color-marking and resighting of loons allows us to monitor breeding individuals, calculate annual return rates to territories, track local movements and migratory routes, and determine overwintering areas.

You can help us track loons. If you see a loon, you can let us know. Download the information here.

 

Conservation Concerns

Conservation Concerns

Loons are long-lived; they have relatively low annual productivity and a poor ability to colonize new breeding areas. Given its small size and disjunct location, the breeding loon population in Wyoming is at particularly high risk of local extinction and is highly susceptible to coastal threats (for first summering and wintering individuals). During the breeding season, general threats to this population include: (1) direct human disturbance to nests and chicks and take of adults; (2) water level fluctuations (especially related to climate change); (3) changes in prey abundance and composition; and, (4) contaminants (e.g., lead and mercury) and toxins (e.g., cyanobacteria). On the wintering grounds, Wyoming’s loon population is susceptible to hazards such as marine oil spills and commercial fishing nets.
Collaborators
 

Project Funding

The National Park Service provided initial funding for this project in 2012 and 2013. Additional funding came from the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition in 2013. The Ricketts Conservation Foundation generously provided funding from 2013-2018.
2020 WGFD Research and Monitoring Summary

2020 WGFD RESEARCH AND MONITORING SUMMARY

BRI, in collaboration with Ricketts Conservation Foundation, Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD), Yellowstone National Park, recently published a two page summary brochure titled "Common Loon Research and Monitoring in Wyoming." 

Click here to download the WGFD summary report.

 
Photo Credits: Header photo © BRI-Jonathan Fiely; Common Loons © Daniel Poleschook
Biodiversity Research Institute