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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Common Loon -- Gavia immer

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and the northern Yukon east across Canada to southern Baffin Island and Newfoundland south to northern California (at least formerly), northwestern Montana, North Dakota, and northern Iowa east to southern New England and Nova Scotia. Winters principally along coast from Aleutian Islands south to California, from Newfoundland south to Gulf Coast, and on lakes and bays near coasts. During migration occurs on inland waters throughout most of the United States.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Breeds on or near freshwater lakes, ponds, and occasionally riverbanks, from tundra south in either open or wooded habitat. Territories may range from entire lakes of more than 100 acres to bays of 15 to 20 acres.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Bodies of water deep enough to escape from enemies by diving and large enough that it can take flight (up to 1/4 mile).

NEST: Nests on the ground as close to water as possible, on islands, in sheltered places in coves, or on promontories or headlands. May locate nests on bare soil, on floating or matted vegetation, on muskrat houses or on rocks. Same nest site may be used, presumably by same pair, year after year.

FOOD: Captures food during dives underwater. Generally eats approximately 80 percent fish with some crustaceans, vegetable matter, and insects, varying with locale.

REFERENCES: Palmer 1962, Smith 1981, Terres 1980, Vermeer 1973, Wahl in Farrand 1983a.

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